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Is It Brutal Honesty or Just Brutal?

We view brutal honesty as the ultimate honesty.

We tell our loved ones we’re “keeping it real” before we proceed to eviscerate their life choices. Then, they get defensive and rail back on us for hurt feelings. We, in turn, claim we’re just “calling it like we see it.”

But is it all even necessary?

At what point does brutal honesty become just brutality? Are we lying to ourselves about what it means to honest with others? I have a few points to consider.

Are Your Beliefs the Absolute Truth?

It’s important to distinguish fact from opinion. Just because you believe something to be true, it doesn’t mean it’s reality. Let’s consider the phrase, “I just tell it like it is.” Exactly what is it? Think about what you believe the person’s problem is versus what they’ve actually told you.

For instance, I had an interaction with a friend recently. I told them I was having a bad day. They proceeded to say “Quit complaining and do something about your life. I don’t want to hear you moan and groan anymore until you do!”

I was actually at a point in my life where things were going exceptionally well. Most of my days went swimmingly. That particular day wasn’t going great. So, where did my friend get everything else from?

Turns out, they were basing their opinion on events that happened to me several years ago. They remembered when I was at a low point in my life and for some reason hadn’t caught up since. That goes back to belief versus facts. The fact was me saying I had a bad day. The belief was my friend thinking my life was in shambles and in need of fixing.

See the difference?

Are You Helping or Hurting?

Brutal honesty usually comes across as negative. I’ve personally never heard someone say, “I’m gonna be brutally honest with you. You’re an amazing, talented person.” Instead, I’ve heard, “I’m going to tell you something you might not like…” followed by an unnecessarily harsh monologue.

Think about it. Is negativity towards someone designed to help? Doesn’t positive reinforcement work better than tearing someone down just to “toughen them up?”

Is your intent to truly help someone or simply get something off your chest? How you say something is just as important as what you say. Do you ever offer praise or encouragement? If honesty is the goal, shouldn’t those aspects also be a focus?

Consider the Relationship Dynamic

Too often, brutal honesty occurs in a relationship that is unequal (or perceived that way). A high-level exec at a company may berate a lower-level employee. Afterwards, that exec might “flower it up” by calling it tough love. However, if the tables were turned, would this be acceptable? Probably not.

If a person perceives themselves to have it “more together” than someone else, they’ll usually feel comfortable giving that person advice. However, would the person who has it “together” be okay with the other person administering tough love? Probably not.

Butal honesty too often gets rooted in a need to feel superior while belittling others. Consider how you’d feel if someone you perceived to be “less than” gave you the same advice you give others.

Why Do You Need to be Unkind?

We live in the age of social media and its perceived cancel culture. Naturally there will be those who resist what they feel is censorship. In a time where facts often get discarded in favor of opinions, we also misconstrue what counts as honesty.

Truth doesn’t have to be unkind. It doesn’t have to hurt or demolish. So, why do some of us gravitate towards the brutality of it? The world is filled with cruel words, especially on social media. We, in turn, believe that we’re helping others by feeding into that negativity by giving our unfiltered opinions.

Except, it doesn’t have to work that way, especially with people we care about. Being able to tell the truth without hurting is a sign of emotional maturity and empathy. People have feelings, and they’re allowed to protect them.

How Do We Gain Emotional Maturity?

It starts with a sense of self. In my book, Life After Low Self-Esteem, I talk about the many methods I used to overcome self-doubt and low emotional intelligence. The good news? Anyone can overcome any of the items mentioned. Check it out, and let me know what you think!

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Give People the Same Energy They Give You

Stop accepting bread crumbs from people while giving them endless amounts of your time, patience, and energy. You are human, and humans have limits. You deserve better than what you’re getting back in terms of reciprocity. Give people the same energy they give you.

Our culture teaches us that we must be altruistic, 100% selfless human beings at all times. So, we strut around giving our energy away freely to anyone who asks for it, and we wonder why we’re endlessly exhausted.

Lets explore ways to conserve that energy and apply it to aspects of your life that will yield a bigger and more satisfying return for you.

Re-Discover What You Want Out of Life & Love

You expect yourself to always be giving and altruistic, but it’s perfectly fine (or not fine) for others to give you almost nothing in return. Stop doing that to yourself. You deserve better.

Start by writing down any goals, dreams, and aspirations you may have. Then, consider your core values as a person. What do you believe in? What makes you happy? What do you have to have in order to function as a person?

Personally, I recommend creating a vision board. Not sure how to start one? You can click here for an easy how-to guide. I’ve also got some worksheets you can use if you need a confidence boost. Once completed, you can move on to something that’s a little more challenging.

Set Boundaries & Manage Expectations

What’s the difference between expectations and standards?

Start managing your expectations. I don’t mean standards. I mean expectations of people. Standards are like boundaries. They’re the things you don’t budge on. Expectations are more flexible. If you are a person who goes out of their way for people on instinct, you need to learn to adjust according to what you are given in return.

It seems petty, and at times it will appear to be. But it’s also being fair to yourself. If you don’t know how to be fair to yourself, how can you truly be fair to anyone else?

Any relationship requires a healthy balance of energy. A one-sided friendship, for example, isn’t really much of a friendship at all. You make all the arrangements, you plan the birthday parties, buy the presents, listen to them when they’re down, help them move, etc.

How do I manage my expectations?

Do your friends do any of the above-mentioned for you? If not, you need to change your expectations. Instead of doing all of the above, you should only do what your friend reciprocates. Nothing more.

That is now what you expect out of YOURSELF when it comes to that person. If that becomes an issue, then state why you’ve changed your behavior to match theirs. By stating it, you’ve expressed the expectation you have of THEM and the ball is in their court to figure out what they expect from the friendship. It should ALWAYS be fair.

What if they don’t meet my expectation?

The friend may decide not to meet your expectations, and that’s fine. That’s what compromise is for. You have to decide if the compromise is worth keeping the friendship.

That’s where your standards/boundaries come in, the things you’re not willing to budge on. They should always be realistic. If it all works out, then great! If not, it’s not your fault. You still did the right thing. This thought process also works for marriages and long-term/short-term relationships.

Check Your Balance

Imagine you have a bank filled with your energy. Every day you withdraw funds in order to power your relationships. Now, every bank account has a specific limit, right? At a certain point, that account needs to be filled up, or it will overdraft.

So what happens when you run out of funds? You not only won’t have enough “energy” to give out, but you won’t have any to give yourself either. So, how can manage your account when the funds you give out are never returned?

You’re always the one to initiate conversations, always the one offering emotional support, and always the one showing up for something. But when the time comes, those who are accepting your funds aren’t doing the same, so you’re always in the red.

Invest in people who will match the funds you’re giving out. Make time for individuals who aren’t emotionally selfish and self-centered, and watch how your outlook changes. You’ll feel supported, loved, and most of all appreciated.

Reclaim Yourself

Stop allowing yourself to be walked all over by people. Stop accepting bread crumbs when you’re worth an entire buffet. Know your worth and demand to be treated fairly. You have to stand your ground and give people the same energy they give you.

Remember that, no matter what, you are enough.