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How can I know when its okay to be brutally and completely honest and when I should be more "gentle" expressing my thoughts?

22 Answers
Last Updated: 02/08/2021 at 11:30pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United Kingdom
Moderated by

Tara Davis, Doctorate in Counselling Psychology


I have worked successfully with a wide range of difficulties. Nothing is more important than developing a warm, compassionate relationship with someone you can trust

Top Rated Answers
May 22nd, 2015 7:37am
Be guided by the nature of the person you are speaking to. Some people prefer total honesty, but others would benefit more from careful handling.
January 19th, 2015 12:12pm
This question can be difficult - most people would say that its something we have to sense! One way to approach this is to think about the end result: would the person you're talking to benefit more from stark honesty or a little more tact? It varies significantly based on person and circumstance but as a general rule, this has worked for me.
January 30th, 2015 6:46pm
Tact and politeness are dictated by cultural norms and personal style. I personally would rather risk voicing an unpopular opinion and then apologize later for offending anyone...but that won't fly in the work place. It's good to know when to pick your battles. Sometimes being direct and incisive is the route of least suffering for everyone. Painful truths are better confronted than avoided. But ask yourself, do YOU need to be the one doing the confronting? And are you being brutally honest to save the person from additional suffering, or simply because you need to be right? Sometimes, it can be hard to know the difference. Thinking before speaking anything potentially hurtful is a good idea. It is also helpful to remember that some people are so in denial, they cannot be reached with words. Trying to confront, argue, and lecture people out of a strongly held belief (even one that seems ridiculous and false) is a losing battle. Whatever words you choose, you must be prepared to accept the other person where they're at, or leave them behind if you cannot.
May 5th, 2015 7:40am
just be as honest to yourself as you are to the other... we can say you would prefer someone to tell you that you dont look nice and it may be true, but not in a harsh way.. be honest but lay it gently to the person, like "you remember the dress you wore last week? i liked it better on you..." that way the person wont feel bad about their dressing but will know you dont approve of what they have on at the moment
June 10th, 2015 1:16am
I had the same problem myself, and sometimes still do in certain situations. Everyone is different and everyone reacts in different ways. Before you say anything, think about the situation and the person by standing in their shoes. Think, "What sort of opinions would I want to hear in this particular situation? The hard truth, or the more sugarcoated version. Neither of the choices are considered wrong, it just depends on the person you're saying it to.
June 18th, 2015 3:01am
Many times, it can take acute social skills that are attuned to what the other person is thinking or feeling. That, or really empathize with who you're talking to. Put yourself in their shoes and back, and make an objective decision about whether this person is hurting, and will ignore the truth and just see how much it hurts, or if they'll take it and do something with it, pain and all.
June 29th, 2015 11:27am
It is likely that if we build solid repertoire, have established empathy and then ask for permission, we can be more direct.
June 30th, 2015 10:14pm
Take a step back and consider how the other person might feel. Truly engage them with empathy, asking, "How would -I- feel if confronted in such a way?" Being completely honest is always recommended, but when is it ever warranted to be "brutal" with somebody? No matter what, you should always engage others with honesty and kindness.
July 6th, 2015 2:20am
Honesty is important but being gentle and knowing when your honesty is being hurtful takes practice. Tread lightly and speak with kindness.
November 9th, 2015 2:58pm
You should always be gentle and kind when expressing your thoughts. You should also feel free to be completely honest. We need honest feedback from each other, but it doesn't help if it is delivered in a harsh or cruel way. If you want to help, "speak the truth with love".
January 19th, 2016 1:58pm
Well, first of all I'd like to say you should never be afraid to speak your mind. Your individual voice matters immensely. It also shows that you are naturally a sensitive, yet honest person since you even thought to ask this question. Perhaps, it is best to be gentle when a person is in a sensitive state already, but remember the truth hurts everyone but it also helps everyone. So even if there are times when you need to phrase is more subtly because of somebody's fragile emotional state, don't worry about how their emotions might be hurt too much because ultimately it will help them greatly .
February 8th, 2016 7:20am
I think you should alway be honest. But, you can be totally honest and gentle at the same time! Personnaly, I would prefer to someone who is brutally honest and tell me directly ''Nah I don't like what you do'' (for an exemple) than someone who say ''well it's not bad but it's not my kind of thing'' (when s/he actually think it's bad) I hope it helped you! :)
- Expert in Managing Emotions
May 10th, 2016 2:46am
Its always based on your senses. If you sense that there is tension and it is not the right time then don't be brutally honest but when you sense that the person that you are talking to are more open and willing to receive fed backs then be brutally honest.
May 13th, 2016 4:24pm
From my personal experience, i would rather the other person tell me the truth no matter how much it hurts me because it is better to be told the truth (it is easier to process most of the time and to work through) than to be lied to because then you are left wondering why you weren't good enough for the truth. I would follow the other persons lead, and you will know when the time is right on how to approach the topic.
June 5th, 2017 9:45am
It truly depends on the person you are speaking to and you usually can kind of guess how to handle the situation based on your knowledge about the person but if you are unsure try to think if the person can handle brutal honesty if the situation is better handled with tact etc.
November 6th, 2017 5:37pm
In m opinion, you should never be sorry for how you feel. You should however be mindful with the way you express yourself if it has the ability to hurt somebody. You should never say something with the intent of being hurtful, for example, you could say something brutally honest that might not necessarily be what the other wants to hear, but if your intentions are good, I see nothing wrong with being brutally honest. I may be taken back when someone expresses themselves in that way, but if I know their intentions are good, I end up appreciating it in the long run.
December 11th, 2017 6:01pm
When someone asks me to be honest with them then I should be brutally and completely honest with them. If there really sad or feel very flexiable then maybe I will me really gentle.
January 29th, 2018 9:05am
Well communication never hurt anyone. Asking can help to figure out what to do. also reading the situation and the person will help too
February 27th, 2018 7:26pm
I feel like this depends on the person we are being honest too. If you know they are sensitive, then use more light wording and suggestions. Complete honesty is only for the most steel-hearted.
June 5th, 2018 6:09am
It's on the feel, if you feel like you trust that person to see your full brutal expression, then it's maybe because you feel like they are actually paying attention to what you're saying and thus you wouldn't mind adding more details. The truth is, it's also about you in the end, you dont want to trigger yourself either, so it's important to be gentle with yourself :)
February 25th, 2020 10:21am
I think your definition of "brutal honesty" really matters here. I define it as aggressive and more direct advising, which isn't what we're supposed to do here. But regardless:I don't think brutal honesty ever really helps. You can try more straight-forward open questions instead of reflections if you're looking to really guide people, I guess. But in my experience "brutal honesty" doesn't translate well to helping people through stress. People come here looking for support. Most of them are just hoping for someone to listen to them and help them process some difficult (but not critical/crisis) situations. They don't want life makeovers. So be nice, try to read what they're looking for, and the room, I guess? Maybe that's just me though.
February 8th, 2021 11:30pm
In my personal experience, I think about who I am talking to and what kind of person they are. Are they someone who is more sensitive? Would they want you to sugar coat it or just tell them the truth no matter what? Another thing to think about is the topic at hand. Is the topic at hand something really serious? If so you should try being gentle. If It is about something that may be tough but not anything extreamly serious then I would try to assess the situation before. Also thinking about yourself when thinking about how to say things is important. How would you want someone to tell you things? That can also contribute a bit in how you address things.