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Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Interesting Thing About Candor


Candor.

This topic has been consuming me lately. Honesty is a virtue, right? So, how do we differentiate between telling someone the truth and being an asshole? I think the answer lies somewhere in the marsh.

I most recently read a Young Adult book called Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine, told from the point of view of a fifth grade girl with Asperger’s syndrome. It was really quite a good read, revealing the challenges of the disorder for people who haven’t quite figured out to filter appropriate comments and, as it seems, must learn empathy. As I read, I wondered how one is diagnosed since there are some people in the world, without Asperger's, that prefer to be bold in their talk, unrelenting or unfeeling of the consequences of their words. I think you know the type. You might’ve flinched a time or two in his or her presence. Sometimes, though, just sometimes, you might've smiled to yourself and thought, "Finally! Someone was brave enough to say it." 

I have not studied (aka, done a google search) to see if there is a correlation between candor and gender. In our household, I can't say there's a trend. My daughter is pretty straight-forward...much like her father who definitely calls a spade a spade. The jury is out on the eleven-year old boy. As for me, I like to be honest. Yet, I absolutely hate hurting feelings. So, please don't ever ask me to try any of your coconut dessert. It will send me into turmoil because I hate coconut, but I'd love to tell you how delicious it is since you seem so proud.

The other night when we crawled into bed, I remarked with delight, "Ooh! I love the smell of clean sheets!"

My hubby flatly responded, "Wash them more often then."

Thanks for the wise advice, Hon. Of course, my thoughts immediately roamed into a discursive about the fair division of household chores. But I decided it best not to go there, because it had been a nice weekend. And truly, I think Doug was just trying to be helpful. Then, almost within the next thirty seconds, before we kissed each other goodnight, my love sweetly said to me...

"I'm sorry about your face."

This made me laugh out loud. I had been going through a rough patch of dry skin, and apparently it was duly noted. I guess it was nice of him to empathize.

My husband is honest. Brutally honest. And I appreciate the fact that he tells me if something looks ridiculous in the morning. (Although sometimes I suspect an ulterior motive when I find myself changing a number of times while he judges.) Candor can by ticklish, of course, with a teenage daughter. Of course, approaching any topic with a teenager is ticklish; it actually can be downright...messy if you're prone to pronouncing judgement.

To be fair, my husband says I can be fairly abrupt with him. He often asks me after we are quarreling about some spreadsheet on his PC, "Do you talk this way to your staff at work?" Of course, I say no. I would never be this impatient with them. It would make for horrible working relationships. But surprisingly, we have a pretty great marriage.

Married 18 years!
I think we all use candor on a spectrum for a variety of occasions. In terms of staying outside of the marsh of candor, I love the fact that there is one person in the world that I can completely and openly be myself with. Even though he doesn't always appreciate it, he gets to live with me for better or worse...and that is my husband. What I find interesting is that he manages to stay out of the marsh with just about everyone in his sphere of influence. But that's just his style. So if he tells you he's sorry about your face, at least you'll know, he likes you.

1 comment:

bambier said...

We are complete opposites at my house -- I'm the one that is brutally and abruptly honest, and he's the one that will eat my burnt chicken and smile and tell me it's delicious because I worked so hard on it. OF course, when I take a bite and admit that it's disgusting, he'll agree with me then too, and that drives me nuts. There's definitely something to be said for honesty...

That said - being honest with tact is definitely important too. That's something I've been *trying* to work on (somedays more than others). Just because you're close to someone doesn't mean that you can't hurt their feelings when you're brutally honest and tactless...

There's got to be a balance in there somewhere, hopefully it's something achievable!!