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The Surprising Lesson of Brutal Honesty

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Honesty, truthfulness; whatever you’d like to call it (I’ve decided to call it “candor”), many people underestimate the value of candor in an organization, relationship, or family.

My wife (Jenna) and I seemed to have found a healthy balance of candor in our relationship. A few months ago, we had a thick tension between us over a small disagreement. It was one of those times that you could literally feel the tension in the room and wanted to turn on the dehumidifier to see if it’d help clear it out. The disagreement came from something that I honestly can’t remember, but I do remember something that she said to me. As things were getting heated and we were both frustrated by the lack of understanding from either person, Jenna blurted out in desperation, “Nick. You just really don’t get it. I feel trapped sometimes and don’t want to talk to you about my problems because you think only your opinion is the best. You get so entrenched in your opinion that you ignore anything anyone else says until it is accepted.”

Woah.

My mouth clapped shut immediately (that doesn’t happen often), and I listened to her closely as she explained what she meant. I didn’t see that coming at all. My dominating opinion was hurting her? This idea hit me like a ton of bricks.

Thankfully, the conversation calmed down, but I felt hurt. Really hurt. Not a typical type of hurt you feel when someone specifically says something to destroy you, but a hurt that went beyond me.

I was hurt for her.

There it was, from the woman who knew me best; a great example of candor. Brutal honest.

I learned a lot from Jenna that day. Most importantly, candor is something that really strengthens relationships. Instead of politely and kindly playing in the surface-level kiddie pools with people, candor dives a little deeper. The deeper it dives, the harder it becomes to breathe. It can feel like everything is crashing down around you as you descend deeper into the pool of candor. But let me tell you,

The view is spectacular.

If asked, everyone would say that honesty is important. They’d say you should be honest about how you feel and what you think about people. But rarely do people use honesty in its correct form. Candor goes beyond kindness, beyond feeling: candor exists to better the people it is given to.

So many people think that in order to be honest you have to be rude or arrogant. Candor laughs at that concept and offers a better solution; a solution that allows friends, coworkers, partners and parents to be completely honest without being rude. Candor is probably the kindest thing ever to be practiced on you, because candor is constructive. It may say some harsh truths, but if candor is used correctly these harsh truths will only be harsh for a season, and their long-term pay off is incredible.

Jenna did hurt me with her words, with her “brutal honesty”. But it was a pain I know I needed. Like a sharp pinch needed to wake a drowsy person, candor is an incredible practice that make any person better, only if they’re willing to receive it.

When is the last time you’ve used candor with someone? More importantly, are you willing for candor to be used on you?

Yes, it hurts.

But hey, growing always hurts.