I'm always tempted to write about Radical Honesty, but I never do because I don't practice it. I don't lie, and will be radically honest when it's requested, but I don't offer it habitually.
(if you don't know what Radical Honesty is, it's the idea of saying what's on your mind-- always-- with no regard for social convention.)
Radical Honesty's opposite is Standard Dishonesty. Not the pathological lying or deception we encounter sometimes, but the polite withholding of feedback that we all practice on a daily basis.
One of the things I like most about cruise ships is that I get to hang out with a lot of old people. I don't know how this fits in with the rest of my personality, but I really do enjoy spending time with and having conversations with old people (that's for you, Todd). Cruise ships are packed with them, and the random group seating in the dining rooms ensures plenty of face time.
The downside to chatting with old people is that a few of them are totally socially inept. We're talking about people who have made it, with some level of success, through eighty years of life or so, with outrageously annoying social skills.
An example: an old man who cuts you off halfway through every sentence, and manages to consistently steer the conversation to his mostly dim view of various computer warranties.
These people are in the minority, of course, and this isn't at all senior specific. The only reason I bring it up for old people in particular is because it makes you realize that they've gone through DECADES of life with terrible social skills and haven't changed.
My first question is: "How could this POSSIBLY happen? How could they go so long and not realize that they're so off?"
Then I quickly realize that I'm the answer. Like everyone else, I sit there and engage in standard dishonesty. I throw in half a sentence of condemnation for Best Buy, and feign interest when he interrupts me and moves on to Dell's in-house warranty services.
How could he know that he's boring me to tears when I'm doing my best to lie to him and pretend that he's not? Who, throughout the course of his life, has done any different?
What would have happened if, sixty years ago, a friend had sat him down and said, "You know, George, you have a bad habit of-- wait, let me finish-- interrupting people and talking about the warranty on your typewriter. You should really consider paying more attention to what other people are saying."
What if ALL of his friends were that honest with him?
It's tough to say where my responsibility lies. Maybe I should have been the one to say it. Sure, he'd hate me and tell his wife (how does SHE deal with it?) that I'm a punk, but maybe the thought would rattle around in his mind and have a positive impact eventually. Or maybe it would offend him and he'd get nothing out of it.
Standard dishonesty is cowardly, and I say that with the admission that I'm no stranger to it. We can rationalize the impact honesty would have on the recipient's feelings, but what really stops us from giving it is our fear of repercussions.
I don't know about you, but every time someone has told me something tough, I've appreciated it. Receiving honesty is a gift, but giving it is a real act of courage.
Todd, I love you.
Ty - at the end of the day why do you care what the old man thinks of you? If you feel like radical honesty would help him (and that's really your gut instinct), just say it. Why do you need this man's approval? Will it really matter to anyone in a hundred years?
There are also more tactful ways of getting your point across (like Chad suggested above). There's always a way to get something across without challenging the person's identity of self. I'm not saying I'm quite there yet, but I'm definitely interested in learning as much as I can about this going forward.
Great post, btw.
Walshy, you're right, telling a girl you love her after seeing her twice isn't going to fly, but not because girls don't appreciate honesty.
It's because guys who love you after seeing you twice are creepy.
Interesting blog post. I think radical honesty on an old guy would be pointless and socially uncalibrated. As you said, he made it this far... what's the point in trying to change him now? Radical honesty on a younger guy though... probably a good call.
You could tell him a story about "this guy you met" who interrupted people all the time to talk about warranties and how someone mentioned it to him and how he learned to change his behaviour. If you tell a story they may not take it personally. Also, do a pattern interrupt. I remember a magician teaching other magicians that when a heckler starts to interrupt (common problem) continue talking, only a little louder. After a few attempts they'll usually give up.
My 2 cents.
Tynan, I bumped into your blog place by googling 'how to have a life' and I have been reading post by very interesting post for the past 1 hour. I just love the way you write and the details that you pay attention to. Man, you rocked!
Great post, Tynan. I am always amazed that it is considered rude to point out someone's rudeness. It's the social convention, and there is nothing we can do about it.
So if you (or anyone else) had told this guy that he was being rude, he could have responded "YOU are being rude."
Wow man! What a super post. I am all about honesty. I try to lie less and less, but it's a process. I think it's so valuable when people tell me the truth. Especially when it hurts. It's a sign that they actually care about me having a better life.
Its not cowardly to use standard dishonesty its in fact a very smart thing to do...but only sparingly.
Whatever truths you may hold or lies, they both must each be used sparingly.
Or suffer at your own peril.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic, very interesting and rarely covered.
My current supervisor at work is exactly like the person you mentioned in the post. He talks for houres about nonsense, mostly about music (I know/care a damn about it), gets very emotional during the conversation, sometimes hitting objects, just in order to pick them up 2 seconds later and telling his audience "nah, just kiddin". He's 55, divorced for ~30yrs, and works as a social worker.
Seriously, this guy is paid to work with young people and act like a role model, yet he has so little social skills. Almost all his colleagues pretend to be nice and friendly, but in the end, I know that they are annonyed by him; they know him since 20ish years.
I know that you don't care about this and probably stopped reading like 2 paragraphs ago, but let me express my thoughts about this. Since I will move away in a few months, I'll have the opportunity to confront him about this. I would love to, but apparently he doesn't care about self-imrpovement. One day he mentioned that it was "god-given" that he's not married - Yeah, whatever, you needy afc. . .Since it's unlikely that he will actually change, being radically honest seems to be like a negative freeroll to me: either he won't change or he won't change and will be mad at me.
I feel that humans need to lie to each other to get through our lives. Its really hard to tell a friend: "look man, you need to stop arguing/lying/swearing so much" and alot of the time that is needed. I like to make the people around me feel as good as possible and brutal honesty just doesn't co-exist with that well. Nobody wants to be the bad guy, in truth sometimes not pointing stuff out is doing more damage than the initial sting the truth would induce.
Cheers tynan, I will reflect on this today.
Some people have it, but most don't. For those who have it, it permeates every area of their life. They look for it in everyone else. Those who don't have it are naturally drawn to it, but they don't know why. It attracts the opposite sex.
What am I talking about?
August 11th, 2011. Chiba, Japan.
A mix of confusion and awe as I step off the platform.
I must have made a mistake. But maybe a good mistake.
Birds caw and cicadas click gently, filling the warm afternoon air with sounds of nature. The train platform is open to the air and on the other side of the tracks is a high fence. Beyond it, a bicycle and walking path leading to a park.
Children are running around and playing in the park, but surprisingly quietly. Very Japanese.