Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We Need To Talk

Come here. Sit down for a second. I need to tell you something. Yes, you can sit there in that seat. I know it’s a school chair with a desk attached to it. I know it wobbles and that it looks ancient. That’s beside the point. I need to talk to you. Look, I just have to tell you…

  • Your fly is down.
  • You’ve got something in your teeth.
  • You’re characters are naked—and by naked I mean, your characters could use a little character.

So, how do you do it? The above is clearly written in jest, but all of us live in relationships and all of us have felt the tug to tell the truth. And some of us are even asked advice on a regular basis. When the time comes for you to spill it, I want to know, are you confident and to the point? Do you beat around the bush, hemming and hawing before you talk? Do you avoid telling so and so because it would embarrass them or it might hurt their feelings? Of course I realize it depends on the circumstances, but in general, as a critique partner, a friend or as a mentor…how are you with telling the truth when the truth isn’t always comfortable to share?

*photos by flickr


  1. Thanks, Wendy, for the wonderful words of encouragement on my blog today!

    As far as the truth, I've been told before that I can be brutally honest at times. I do try to always be encouraging, but I have no problem being honest.

    My most difficult thing is telling someone they have something big and green in their teeth. But I always hope someone will tell me before everyone sees, so I try to let others know as well.

  2. Anything can be said when couched with love.

    If a person knows you and knows you really have their best interest in heart (and if you honestly do), then it is a bit easier.

    If that relationship isn't there, I keep my mouth shut (or try to!)

    And, ten atta-boys for every one not-so-greats, right?

  3. The more familiar I am with a person the easier it is. Speaking the truth in love, reminds me that even when I need to hear hard truths I want the person saying them to appear geniune about how I may receive it.

  4. I believe the women who have answered before me, completely nailed this question!

    When you have a strong relationship with someone it is easier to tell them the truth, whether it's telling them they have toilet paper on their shoe or more seriously confronting them about destructive decisions. However, if that relationship just isn't there we have the option to keep our traps shut and pray about it if it's regarding a serious concern.

    In personal experiences, my foot has entered my mouth or had my head bitten off more than once with trying to help an acquaintance with advice or offering my opinion when I *thought* I was helping. I've learned to just LISTEN and pray when I feel it is necessary.

  5. I struggle with it. Not because I want to lie but because I don't want to hurt the other person's feelings. I try to overdo the "sandwich" (give a lot of good first and a lot of good at the end) to compensate for the sting. In the end, it's better to be honest than not really help that person as a critique partner. As the people above have said, a lot depends on relationship.

    In other news, I had that "high school" dream last night. You know the one where you realize you still there and something impossible is happening where you can't graduate? It was a little different this time, but still the high school dream. And then I came on here to see the picture of the desk--almost ran away! Ha! :0) Have a great day, Wendy!

  6. Wendy, you are truly digging deep here. If it's a negative I have to deliver, I work hard to cushion the blow. As in, I find all the positives and run with them, slip in the negative, then run some more with the positives. With the negatives, though, I also try to offer a way of fixing it, do a bit of brainstorming. Unfortunately, I don't always have the time to be diligent about this plan, but I do try!!

  7. oh I hate it! I do not like to hurt people and I hate sticky, uncomfortable situations. I will usually start out by reassuring someone of how wonderful I think they are or how awesome a friend they've been and then slowly, painfully make my way to sharing the yucky part. Of course if it's the XYZ fly thing I will just come right out with it and laugh my rear off while doing so. (if the person is a close friend of course!)

  8. Sometimes it's easier than others, but I strive to always be honest in a kind way. I think it's possible to tell someone the truth without hurting their feelings. Nice post!

  9. It depends on the situation. With beta reading I am brutally honest always, because those are the beta readers I like. In real life I think I am a beat around the busher. I hate hurting my loved one's feelings.

  10. I think you have to accentuate the positives then tell them what they can do to improve it. Having just recently started beta reading, it's a lot harder than I expected it to be.

  11. It is one of the hardest thing that God can push my heart to do...when you know it is something that HAS to be said, but it is something that you know may hurt them or cause confrontation of ANY kind. It ties me up in knotts to the point where I can stop eating and can barely think. BUT...I can say that when I follow thru on what I know I need to do...I find strength on the other side. Doesn't mean, tho, that I don't spend as much time as I can trying to avoid it... :)
    Thanks Miss Wendy,

  12. Oooh! Good post!

    I'm confident in what I have to say, if 1) it's said in love and 2) it results in less pain in the future.

    It's all execution. How many times have we looked back on things to think, "Why didn't anybody tell me this before?!" If it's something I would want to know, then I say it. But always with kindness. :)

  13. I’ve always seen life as too short to beat around the bush. I’m confident even in circumstances when I don’t know the person. I have discernment when they tell me something, that they either want to change their circumstances or they don’t. I’ve had to ask friends before if they really wanted to change their situation, do an about face and go in the opposite direction or if they wanted to wallow in their misery. I think friends appreciate honesty because they can see the situation from a completely different perspective. Usually a friend wouldn’t tell you something if they didn’t want to know your honest opinion about it.

  14. Even honesty with kindness is hard. When we have to share news that we know will cause someone pain, it's never easy to share it. That's why crit groups are especially hard. We don't want to dash someone's hopes and dreams with the honest feedback we need to give them. So often we only tell them some of what they need to hear. Perhaps this is why I've shied away from crit groups. If I know this tendency is true in me (to shy away from the brutal truth) then I know it's true in others. Will they be able to give me the complete, honest feedback I need? Not sure. But when I pay someone to do that, then it's their job. They don't need to worry about hurting my feelings!

  15. I agree that relationship is key to telling difficult truths.

    I like to be told the truth, and I like to tell the truth. Critique groups are actually simple because there is an underlying assumption that at least *some* less-than-flattering truths may have to be told, in a spirit of love and encouragement.

    Unfortunately, in personal life, no such assumption exists. For some people, no matter how loving the relationship or how self-evident the truth, they simply do not want to hear it and will "punish" you for telling it. Entire church cultures and friendships have grown up around withholding any difficult truths from others. When this happens, churches and friendships become corrupt.

    I had to make a very painful "stand" about a year-and-a-half ago. I became an organizational truth-teller in a situation in which no one else was willing to take the heat, even though they all later agreed with me. Despite the pain and the anxiety it caused me, I knew I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do the right thing, and protect people when I had the chance to do so.

  16. I will always tell a friend or stranger if something is in their teeth or their zipper is down. To me, that's plain treating someone with dignity. Other topics get more complicated. I handle with prayer. My preference is always honesty if I truly care about the person. Even if that honesty is hard.


    Hope that adds something to the talk here.

    Thanks for visiting me this morning and sharing in my zebra fun.


  17. I have trouble saying things upfront if it will hurt someone's feelings. I try to do it with kindness though. Tough stuff there.
    Most of the time I'll tell a stranger if somethings up with their clothes. Unless it's a guy with his zipper down, because then it would be weird for him to know I even noticed. *cringing but laughing*

  18. Most of the time it is very difficult for me. I don't want to cause anyone pain but I know that there are times I must, must speak out and then I hope it is done in a spirit of love, not anger or frustration. It is a tricky thing, but Jesus didn't hesitate to speak out when necessary and we know that He always spoke in love.

  19. I don't want to hurt someone so it really has to be helpful to them before I say something. I hope as my critique partner though you will be honest if something I send your way has glaring faults:))

  20. I would want someone to tell me the truth even if it hurts or is embarassing. Good reminder. :O)

  21. Great post, Wendy. And some great comments, too.

    When I am in a true friendship, I take the truth they speak to heart and am deeply grateful for it. I feel blessed that I have three valued crit partners whom I also count as friends. I am able to tell them truth, and they me--and they tell me the truth in love. They are treasures!

    In other friendships, the same applies. As I've matured in age and in my Christian walk, I've learned to tell the truth in love when truth needs spoken. The key is to know when it needs spoken. Some people don't, you know? They say, "No offense, but..." and then go on to offend you for something so inconsequential it wasn't worth saying. :) (Ie, those shoes don't go with those pants. Who cares, unless it's a job interview or something? heehee)

    In short, twenty years ago I was terrible with telling the truth in love--and accepting the truth. But I've matured and can now accept and offer it, if it's offered in the right spirit.

  22. Whoa, tough one, Wendy! I think it's all been said above. I have no problem with spinach in the teeth, button undone...usually 'cause they have to tell me all the time. :0 The harder the issue, the tougher to tell. Circumstances and if I'm the one to say--I'm finking out on this tough one. :)

  23. As a speech teacher, I am in the role of "critique partner" quite often. Like some of the others I try very hard to mix the good with the bad when relating the feedback to my students.I try to set up the idea that this class is a "training ground" and we are all here to improve from speech to speech.
    On occasion, an especially poor presentation attempt must be scratched and begun again. While this may be a crushing blow for some egos, I try to encourage with love and words of support, offering a checklist of what will be needed for improvement. When it happens, I am their biggest cheerleader. The student inevitably comes away from the experience prouder and wiser. I hope when my critique partners finish their task, I will also be prouder and wiser.

  24. Heather, I meant every word. If I catch it, I'll tell you if there's something big and green in your teeth. I'm the exact same blend of encouraging and honest (or at least I hope I am).

    Tess, I liked how you wrote couched with love. Sadly, as S&G once sang, "A man hears what he wants to hear" and sometimes the truth can fall on deaf ears, even when spoken in love. Agree? And I'm over the relationship bit.

    Tamika, I don't just want them to appear genunie, I want them to be genuine, eh? You, too, I'm guessing.

    Krystal, my husband and I have learned often to state, "Are you wanting my advice?" My mom tipped me off on that one. I'm enjoying hearing from you more.

    Kristen, I was in your dream last night. That's why I posted the table. Mwwahahhahaha. :D I'm a softy, so I know what you mean by throwing on extra goods to smooth out the not-so-goods.

    Eileen, I love that you have a plan and as far as digging deep, I live there. Don't know how to surface real well.

    Lauren, I think I'm also learning to pray that God would prepare them for the "talk" (God, could you do this for that other "talk" I need to have with my girls in a few years, now that I'm thinking of it)...Anyway, I think people need to be ready to hear certain things. I know this is true for me sometimes. But I crave to exude a teachable spirit.

    Susan, I can see this being an accurate statement about yourself.

    Natalie, loved your honesty! For our writing partners, that's what we should want...it's the way to grow.

    Patti, excellent point. Constructive is essential. No use telling someone they bite without telling them how to not bite so hard/badly.

    Bina, I think it is particularly difficult for women to do this and that bugs me. I want us all to improve on this. Just saw a wonderful speaker who spoke on this a few weeks ago. Phenomenal.

    Jennifer, the same lady I wrote about in Bina's response, also mentioned speaking up when you notice something is becoming a pattern. The whole picking your battles thing. That reminded me of your #2.

    Inkstillwet, I'd be curious about an example when you didn't know someone. What is the meaning behind the expression beating around the bush anyway? Anyone?

    Jody, great argument for getting an editor. I'm still waiting to get your check in the mail covering those expenses. :D

    Rosslyn, I came up against a similar situation and agree, I felt like I'd done the right thing in the eyes of God, speaking up lovingly, but firmly. As a sister in Christ, I applaud you.

    Tiffany, that zebra post was too much fun! I loved it. My was about to tell me the other night I had something in my teeth, but as in many things in life, I worked it out before she needed to say something.

    Jessica, I have this weird thing about when a lady in front of me at the grocery check out has hair all over her shoulders. I want to just grab them all off. My husband has actually slapped my hand down before, lovingly, of course. :D

    ~ Wendy

  25. Need More Words, Jesus modeled so much for us, it's wonderful. The Bible really is a guidebook for living.

    Terri, always honest with you. Not afraid. Already emailed you, but this post wasn't about our group. I feel very comfortable to be up front with each of you (hopefully in a helpful way).

    Diane, me, too.

    Gwen, the key is when. I agree. Maturity is a blessing--a rich, thick blessing.

    Karen, glad you'd tell me after dinner in a public restaurant isn't the time or place to pull a Thanksgiving unbuttoning. I would never do that, though. Never. :D Just at the relatives house.

    Ava, I love that you introduce what can be improved, then you walk alongside them cheerleading. What a wonderful follow through and I bet you are remembered for such things.

    Whew! I'm wiped out of thoughts. You? Guess that one nestled a little too close to our aortic valves.

    Speaking of which, God knows our hearts. I pray He guides each of us when it comes time for the truth to be told and it's on us to share it.

    Meanwhile, go to bed grateful you have pants that unzip and teeth to get things stuck in.

    Okay, that just sounded weird. Beyond weird...you know what I was getting at. I'm going to get myself in trouble without even meaning to. It's okay if you just want to go to bed.

    I will and I'll dream of God's loving embrace.
    ~ Wendy

  26. When love is heard, truth may be spoken.

    I like the way Tess said it: "Anything can be said when couched with love."

    And then there's another way to think of all this ...

    Diplomat: Someone who tells you to go to h*ll in such a way that you look forward to the trip.

  27. Whoa! You had a sit-down chat, too! (I'm just catching up with posts from the last few days.)

    I'm learning that there's a freedom in the truth. It may not be easy, but once it's out in the open, there's no more worry, no more raw stress. And then it's easier to move on with healing, improvement, or just nothing, letting it be.

  28. I love this post and all the comments! Wonderful topic! My opinion is to pray about it for a few days and speak out of love and no judgment.

  29. Linked here from Inhorn Blue where Rosslyn referred to this article.

    I really like the verse in Proverbs that says open rebuke is better than hidden love. Hidden love, that is, withholding truth, isn't love at all.

    Being as honest as you write here is very hard, but it is so true. My wife and I, happily married 28 years, still wrestle with sharing an inconvenient truth with each other or just smiling and overlooking the offense. Sometimes sharing the truth will spark a 'lively' discussion, but it is needed. It hurts, but we understand each other better afterwards. And overtime, sharing these truths with each other makes our marriage better.

    This is a good post. I have visited your site several times and the articles have always been very good. You are a good writer.


  30. Oh, I meant to say that we have an old desk like that in our den. It was in the garage for years, but we brought it out when our youth minister's daughter (about 3 yrs old) came over to the house a lot. She loved it. Now that family has moved away, but the desk remains, serving as part decoration and part warm memory recall.


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