Finding sense and sensitivity

Finding sense and sensitivity

Frankly speaking

Finding sense and sensitivity
Jim Carrey may not be an exceptional actor, but some of his films provide interesting life lessons. In his film Liar Liar, he plays a habitual liar who is unable to sugarcoat things and ends up blurting out the truth, as a result of his son’s birthday wish, and much to his own embarrassment. We can only dread this kind of situation in our daily lives when we can no longer hide the truth or sugar coat things, which we routinely do without a second thought. Being frank or honest, rather brutally so, may be a virtue which many aspire for. But how far is it relevant in today’s times?

My close friend frequently recalls an incident early in her married life, when she had planned a movie date with her husband. At the multiplex, she ran into her colleague who randomly commented on her dress, which in her opinion, was inappropriate for the occasion. Although this might have been true, not only did that one comment spoil my friend’s movie outing, but she also ended up carrying the bitterness home that day. Thankfully, good sense prevailed, and she managed to overcome the negativity. The next day, she called the colleague to her cabin and politely told her that her random observation had ruined what could have been a cherished experience for her. It all ended well, as the colleague understood and apologised, and their relations never soured. However, not everyone is capable of having this level of maturity.

Being judged

We live in an age where we get judged every moment of our lives, more so at our workplace. There is a thin line between being frank and being blunt or rigid, as it is sometimes perceived. Being frank is, most of the times, something that we learn at home. Children become brutally honest in giving their opinion when they see their parents behaving that way at home. In a positive home environment, children learn to give honest opinions without hurting anybody. The key to being frank and honest is to keep in mind that not everybody likes to be judged. Hence, treading this thin line is an art in itself, which goes a long way in determining your personality. Families and organisations have their own cultures, and being outspoken is just as important as being honest, polite or humble. While some families encourage giving frank opinions, some just don’t. However, not being vocal may not always force you to brush things under the carpet or lie about things.

Sometimes, people prefer sugarcoating their view than hurting others’ sentiments. Being considerate of people’s feelings is a good thing. But anything in excess is not the natural way of life. If you keep sugarcoating facts, your behaviour may be perceived as fake, and it will seem too obvious after some time. And what started as a way to avoid hurting others will end up making you seem dishonest.

How frank is too frank?

In present times, when there are hundreds of things that bother us, getting a harsh and frank opinion is the last thing we need in our daily lives. Although we appreciate an honest opinion, in reality, we want things done more gently. If you are someone who prefers being frank, make sure you put things across in a more constructive way. The person at the receiving end must see your intention clearly. And the best way to communicate without hurting is, to be honest about your intentions.

When you want to criticise someone’s behaviour, you must always do so by coming right to the point and then presenting the benefit of changing their attitude. Most of the times, intentions are communicated non-verbally. Generally, people take a cue from the tone of our speech about what we mean to communicate. Not just adults, even children who are extremely sensitive to our tone of speech come to know the intention. So when a mother dislikes a particular dress that her daughter has picked out, just stating the fact will drive home the point. However, the girl may hesitate to make choices of her own, fearing they may be wrong. Instead, if the mother explains and makes her see sense in why that outfit is not an appropriate choice, the girl will become confident of her choices in future.

There are ways, and then there are words to be put together while being frank. Just like being too sweet comes across as obviously fake, our honest views also need to be worded properly. Once you establish your credentials as being outspoken without hurting others, it could become one of your biggest strengths. People will then feel more comfortable to approach you for your opinion, as they are assured that you will not criticise for the heck of it, but present things the way they truly are.

Being objective

Often, especially at work, people are sensitive to judgments or harsh feedbacks. The immediate response is to dislike the person who gives it or to withdraw into a shell for fear thereof. When you want to put your views across, ensure that the point is objective and does not target someone personally. The opinion must always be about what is wrong, and not about how the other person is wrong in doing it. The cornerstone of empathy is when you put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Just because you like, to be frank does not mean that others will take it at face value.

Fear of feedback is a serious topic of debate and research, and a frank opinion makes things all the more complicated for colleagues, subordinates or even clients. I have worked with bosses who not only hear you out patiently but also make you spot what’s wrong with a plan or a proposal without sounding harsh. It is a virtuous thing when you yourself realise that the proposal needs reworking when your boss says, “This is an interesting idea, but could we see if it can be done this way so that it works better?” I have shelved ideas and proposals or changed the way I’d intended to do them, by trusting the tone and intention of the person who definitely gave an honest feedback.

It may not always be a great idea to sugarcoat things, nor is it wise to be blunt all the time. One must be sensitive to the culture of a family or an organisation. Moreover, not everyone is cut out to receive honest and frank feedback from others. Some are too sensitive to being criticised. However, at some point in time, they need to understand that the feedback is not about their inefficiency, but a way to bettering themselves. If you have the habit of being straightforward, try getting a sense of who would be receptive to your views and who would not.

A person who does not sugarcoat things is seen as reliable and credible in the long run. It is only the journey towards a good reputation that one must tread without hurting others unnecessarily. Ensure that the people you are interacting with are not lost for want of some empathy, or put off by your fake sugarcoated banter. Being sensitive is the key.
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