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Why are Some People so Brutally Honest?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Few people can successfully sail through life without receiving a single piece of constructive criticism or brutal honesty. Some people can become so driven to be brutally honest, however, that they lose perspective on when such advice is not strictly necessary or helpful. Some brutal honesty delivered by a trusted friend or mentor can be the push a person needs to effect a positive change, but some people enjoy being brutally honest simply for the brutality.

One reason a person may become brutally honest is upbringing. He or she may be the product of a hypercritical set of parents who used harsh criticism as a motivational tool. There may not have been many examples of discretion or tact when it came to expressing opinions of others. A parent or sibling may have looked at a piece of artwork and pointed out all of the flaws instead of praising the child for his or creativity or originality. This negative, critical programming from childhood may survive into adulthood as a brutally honest demeanor.

Television celebrity Simon Cowell is known as brutally honest, especially when he hosted "American Idol".
Television celebrity Simon Cowell is known as brutally honest, especially when he hosted "American Idol".

Some people become brutally honest as a defense mechanism to deflect criticism of their own deficiencies or shortcomings. By putting on a good offense through brutal honesty, they minimize the risk of others judging them equally as harshly. These people often seek out careers as professional critics or judges, strongly believing the only way to help professionals to improve is to be brutally honest. Harsh criticism is seen as a necessary evil, not a lack of tact.

Brutal honesty may have its roots in childhood.
Brutal honesty may have its roots in childhood.

For others, being brutally honest signifies a lack of emotional growth. Many people would love to be brutally honest more often, but a sense of propriety keeps them from overstepping their bounds. Some people who pride themselves on their brutal honesty, however, have a poorly developed social filter when it comes to tact and politeness. They aren't always aware that their critical comments could be personally hurtful or socially embarrassing. They may feel justified by publicly saying what others were thinking privately, but they simply lack the sense of propriety which should prevent such incidents.

Brutal honesty from a mentor or father figure may help effect a positive change.
Brutal honesty from a mentor or father figure may help effect a positive change.

Some famous celebrities known for their brutal honesty, such as the acerbic British judge Simon Cowell on American Idol, may do it to prevent future disappointment in an industry rife with even harsher critics. Some may be brutally honest because they believe the recipient won't take criticism seriously unless provoked or shocked. There may even be some people who are brutally honest simply for the sake of watching other people suffer emotional blows from harsh criticism, whether or not the critique has any actual basis in fact.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular WiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Learn more...
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular WiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Learn more...

Discussion Comments


I have a close friend who prides himself on being brutally honest and not censoring his words. He loves to send long multiple texts without giving me ample time to reply.

One day I told him politely to slow down. He got offended. He always talks about how sensitive and touchy people are, yet he acts the same way. I never looked at him the same way again. All I did was one minor criticism and he flipped. The same person who loves being brutally honest cant take a very minor criticism.


I don't think the point is that honesty is a bad thing, but that the truth can be delivered in a compassionate way. Why is it necessary to be brutal? You can be honest with your friends and family about anything without being hurtful in the way you address them. The two choices aren't be a liar or be honest. The choices are tell the truth from a spirit of hatefulness, anger or bitterness or tell the truth in love.

This article, to me is more about the lack of tact that about the "wrongness" of being honest.


The reason I started speaking my mind honestly? Years ago, someone dear to me asked me what I thought of a guy she met online and wanted to run away with. She showed me his picture. I wanted to say, “How the heck would I know from looking at a freaking picture?” but I bit my tongue. I didn't want to hurt her. I wanted her to be happy, because I knew she was unhappy here. So, I told her he looked nice, and smiled.

She got married to him. And two years later, I found out that that relationship turned physically and mentally abusive, that he was mentally ill, and ended up in a psych hospital. By lying to her, by being socially acceptable and pleasant, I condemned her to two years of living hell. She might not blame me. But I do.

“Do unto others, as you'd like others to do unto you.” Be the kind of friend that you'd want for yourself. And now, that's exactly what I do. If I were in my friends' situation, I'd want honesty, even if it hurt.

If you want a friend who will tell you what you want to hear, instead of what you need to hear, then by all means have one. If you want a friend who will indulge your addictions, your destructive escapist fantasies, in your avoidance, then go ahead. Surround yourself with them. There are plenty of people like that in the world to go around.

But don't go around telling people that people like me are intentionally hurting those around them out of some sick sadistic desire. I could say the same of those who don't tell those necessary, painful truths, who tell you that the reason you can't tell people what they need to hear is because you're afraid of rejection, of getting yelled at or that your self-esteem is too low.

Some people may be emotionally abusive sadists, who disguise their abuse as “honesty.” But it isn't “honesty” if there's no truth, reason, or point in what they are saying. If there is no truth in what someone is saying, then why would it be so hurtful?

If you told a drop-dead gorgeous woman she was ugly, she'd laugh at you, call you jealous, and leave.

If you told a tall person they're really tall, they'd only get upset at you for it if they're living in denial of the fact that they're tall.

To hurt you, there must be *some* element of truth in what was said – some element of truth that you just don't like. And from there, you must ask yourself: Why does it hurt?


I have spent 25 years working and living in a society that rewards liars, backstabbers, thieves and bullies, while punishing the honest.

If I speak truth and my coworker lies, nine times out of ten he will be respected and trusted while I am disrespected and not trusted. The reason for this is because 95 percent of the people in positions of power are themselves liars, backstabbers, thieves and bullies. When a man lies too much to others, he will eventually begin to lie to himself. When he reaches that point, he also loses the intellectual capacity to recognize truth and usually is too cowardly to even care. He then favors others like himself.

Most businessmen, bosses, and people in positions of power fall into this category, especially here in the USA. This disregard, fear and inability to see truth is rapidly destroying us. When a boss shows up, the man who keeps working is construed as being unfriendly and strange. The man who stops work to kiss the boss’s butt is trusted, respected and rewarded. The smarter our phones and cards and everything else gets, the dumber we get. Real men who respect truth and despise brown-nosing, sugarcoating and all other forms of untruth are doomed.


Since when was being truthful a negative thing? The only reason people even say anything is because they care about the people. If they don't know the truth, it will only hurt them even more to find out that someone they know knows the truth, but instead could care less about telling them. Anyway, do you have any idea how bad a lie could ruin someone's life, but the truth sets them free from the lie? The only sad thing is people resent you for it, even though they tell you because you need to know.

Why live a lie that will only hurt you in the end? Get it over with by getting a helping hand of truth because truth is love at its purest.


I am brutally honest also, Sippinsoda. It has cost me many friends and the people who love me the most have just come to accept it I suppose. I really can't help it. I have strong moral values and when I see someone doing something I don't agree with I can look the other way but if they ask for my opinion, they are going to get every ounce of it. I have learned that at times it is lonely, but I would rather have friends I don't have to walk on eggshells around than partake in superficial social interactions.


To those of you who are negative about this article because you yourself are "honest" and think that it is O.K. to be so, please clarify something for me.

When you are being "honest":

Is it your intention to hurt their feelings? Are you doing this on purpose, just to be mean? Is it just for the satisfaction of the hurt on their face? Does your face show your intentions, as in you know what you are saying is going to hurt, but you just don't care? And, when you get the satisfaction you are for looking for, do you try to brush it off by saying, "I tell it like it is", or "I am just being honest"?

Do you say the recipient just can't take the truth? And when they steer clear of you, because of your "honesty", do you turn against them and tell anyone who will listen negative things about them?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are brutally honest and this article pertains to you. If you answered no to these questions, then this article does not pertain to you.

There is a difference. I have experienced it. I have a sister-in-law whom I have not seen or talked to in almost two years because her "honesty" was so hurtful that I couldn't take it anymore. I had to get away from it. I moved an hour away just to be free of it. She was a "yes" to all of the above. She is a brutally honest person. Do not judge until you have been the recipient of your "honesty."


I think it should be called brutally lying. I don't ever think of honesty as being mean, but I find small white "polite" lies are emotionally pleasing, but they destroy my character. Every time I look at a ugly girl and say "you look good" a piece of me dies internally, and I feel like I am getting farther from myself.


Wow. Americans are really over sensitive. What you perceive as being brutal - well, it's our manner of not being "hypocritical." Americans seem to spend a lot of "tact" at circumventing what is really needed to be said. This explains why so many cultures perceive Americans as superficial and hypocrites.


Why is it the boastful "brutally honest" person cannot themselves take brutal honesty? Because it's a green light to them for being unsympathetic toward anyone else? Why can't people just say they are honest? Announcing you're are brutal, just makes you, well, brutal. Brutal is partially defined as "cruel," "crude," or "harsh." You take pride in being those things when you're "brutally honest?" There's a reason why "if you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all" was even started. Sometimes, silence is pretty honest all by itself.


@amypollick: Thank you for your response!


@SippinSoda: As someone who has not always been known for being tactful and diplomatic, I see where you're coming from.

Something I've had to learn is that I cannot take responsibility for the actions of others. Many "brutally" honest people seem to do this. They want to order another person's life as they think it should be ordered, not as the actual person living it thinks it should be. Obviously, there are exceptions, such as when someone is doing something dangerous or destructive. But most situations are not so dire. Learn to be OK with other people living their lives without your help.

You realize you have a problem, which is truly half the battle. It's the hardest thing in the world to admit that you do something destructive, yourself. Because you have come to see this, you will be able to do something about it. I recommend counseling, simply because I think you need to talk about how your upbringing has affected you, and to learn techniques that will allow you to have friends without driving them away. I really feel it will help you a great deal, if you're willing to accept good counsel and someone else's wisdom. Good luck.


Am I in deep crap, here?

I think I'm a mix of three different types here, according to the article. Unfortunately, it took a long time for me to come to this realization about myself. I'm 32 years old now, but very recently I've come to the understanding that I'm a "hurtfully honest" person. Where it derived from, I think first and foremost, is the fact that I am a product of a very hypercritical parent. Then while growing up, it developed into a subconscious defense mechanism, which I've later sold to myself that "the recipient won't take criticism seriously unless provoked or shocked" very convincingly.

So here I am, with no close friends left, but only acquaintances around me. I'm wondering how to get out of this behavior, because I'm so used to it that I can't figure out how to get rid of it. You must understand one important thing: that is the fact that I am so used to people "showing emotions" that I have no problem distinguishing between "the message" and "the emotion" of a person. I'm not afraid of angry people or hard words; it doesn't make my mind freeze (like those who are victims of my harsh words seems to); I can still find the essence. But what I also do is hurt the ones I care about, because I can see in their eyes how my words break their hearts. I feel so very ashamed of this side of me that I'm asking for some advice.

Thank you for reading, and in advance for any helpful tips.


People who are brutally honest have poor, undeveloped social skills because they have no tact and should think before they speak and act. You can be honest without being ugly about it because that will get you nowhere, especially when done by insecure women.

People who are on here saying to "get a backbone and get over it" need to examine their own insecurities on why they need to be that way and admire people who are brutally honest. Nobody is afraid of honesty but it is how it is delivered to other people. Remember that!


Isn't there a medical reason for being this way? I saw it on "House," the man who makes Simon Cowell look like a softy.


Only liars care about the tone of your voice.


People who say brutally honest people are all lowlifes who can't deal with criticism, then forget you. Some people obviously haven't been raised to call it like they see it and they have been coddled their entire live.

Just because some people decide to be mean with it, doesn't mean all brutally honest people are like that. That is an ignorant thing to say. The term brutally honest was created as a sugarcoat for the people who are mean. A truly "brutally honest" person would have called the person a jackass.


The idea of brutal honesty in this article should be replaced with the concept of tactless honesty. Honesty, especially between friends and family, can be the best thing out there.

For example, your best friend giving advice about your current girlfriend and whether she is good for you or not, can go a long way (like if its better to jump boat or stick with her). Also, a family member showing concern for a lump on your neck could even save your life.

The problem with tactless honesty is the lack of social consideration when stating a fact. What good will it do if I point out to my girlfriend that her dance moves need work during a party in front of her friends? Or even simpler, why disclose one's previous relationships to your current relationship? What good will come of it by being honest about it?

The action to state what is one's belief is the truth,and has done nothing to fix or alleviate a supposed problem or fact.


Smart people really know what their shortcomings are and stupid people won’t take your advice anyway and besides, who appointed any of us to pass judgment on others when we have faults of our own?

I’ve never changed my basic way in dealing with other people, which is to treat other people with courtesy, decency and respect and if they give you the same then you have a friend. Instead of being brutally honest, maybe some of these people should mind their own business and make a friend or two.

Normal people, for the most part, are honest with other people, but they don’t say everything that’s on their mind. Only little children and fools do that and if you're old enough to know better and you do it anyway then you’re a jerk.


Why is that we have to label everything? Even honesty? I think a better way to start this article might have been with a more comprehensive explanation or even a look into what qualifies to most people as "brutal" honesty. In most case this only requires very plain spoken honest statements without platitudes to soften the anticipated emotional bruise. When evaluating a student's painting for example one might say, "your brush strokes are much more fluid than before and and your use of light is improving but I don't believe you are ready to show your work just yet." - amiable honesty. "Your work is inferior and you're failing to improve in time to meet your required goal set." - honest. Or lastly, "My dog could scoot his rear end across a canvas and come closer to creating 'art' than this garbage"- brutal honesty. Depends on the recipient's opinion, really.

Generally, when I think of brutal honesty, I tend to think of passive aggressive types who seem to enjoy using constructive criticism as a tool to hurt someone. A reasonable and rational person should never be crushed to hear an honest opinion or evaluation.


Some cases I think don't really qualify in those categories. This "article" is biased toward viewing "brutal honesty" as a personality flaw. Moreover, it ignores the truth that the brutality of the honesty is in the eye of the beholder.

If someone is accustomed to being rarely opposed, and often praised for what is really just a minimal or even mediocre expectation, then when they are faced with the slightest possibility of improvement, or accountability for their actions, they react as thought anyone offering a dissenting view of their performance as negative, and invalid.

The truth is, brutal honesty is to some extent being confused with other personality flaws here. There shouldn't ever being anything wrong with actually just being honest. But lacking tact is just that -- lacking tact. It's not a question of how it applies to being honest, or the perceived brutality of it. Beyond that, the perception of brutality is often a product of someone knowing that they screwed up, and not wanting to hear it. But that doesn't make the one being honest brutal.

I mean, heck, people aren't mind readers, and there are some serious communication failures in our society today, one of which is a total lack of honest, clean, immediate honesty. And if you change your mind later, tell me. I would rather know what you think now, than not know and screw up.


I believe that it's always better to be honest, even if it is about something that people don't want to hear. "Honestly," if you're one of those people who might become angry or defensive over hearing something that isn't happy or great about yourself, doesn't that only lead to ignorance?

There may be certain ways to say things without offending certain people, but I believe that if that person cannot handle the truth because, "feelings can't be changed or controlled," or anything of that nature, that person is ignorant and immature.

Learning to accept the truth is an aspect of maturity. Saying the truth isn't a negative thing if it actually is the truth and is not said with words purposefully meant to be derogatory.

And by the way, I'm 15. Being an adult doesn't make somebody mature by default. There are a lot of immature people in this world. I hope that somebody who reads this can understand my point of view.

Finally, this article, from what I read, is written by somebody who can't stand to hear the truth because "brutal honesty" isn't always happy. Just a thought. You don't have to agree with my opinion, but thank you if you read this.


I have read this article and many of the posts on here. On the whole. I agree that honesty is always better than a lie. And, yes sometimes the truth hurts.

I know many people that are self-proclaimed brutally honest people and when they tell you like it is, it is that way most of the time.

The problem with this method however, is that it is intended to help but can often damage the relationship because of how that honesty is delivered. Telling the truth does not have to come across as a personal attack on someone's character. And depending on how someone words their criticism or honesty, it may.

At the end of the day, if you ask for someone's advice or opinion, you should really be prepared for the answer.


Honesty is honesty. I myself am the type to tell people like it is - in all things good and bad. But this is where people create the problem. Who wants to hear the bad truths? Therefore, when an individual is realistic about or observant of something that others would rather ignore, they are deemed as negative, brutal people. This is just not the case.

I hope that people will learn to appreciate upfront honesty, even when it is about something negative. That in itself is better than just talking behind others' backs or leaving the problem to fix itself.


I'm 15 and was very happy and thought I had some great friends until I was blessed with the honesty of a 'friend' who explained to me the fact that no one really likes me and that they told him to be 'brutally honest' and share the news. If I were to be 'brutally honest,' I would admit that I could have done without this very helpful, constructive criticism.


For me, honesty is honesty. Putting a word on the front such as brutal or radical changes the context. It becomes more about the tag and less about the honesty.

I know practitioners of radical honesty, and to be 'brutally' honest, they are not very nice people. They profess to be honest, yet in my experience, set themselves up as on a higher plane, and accuse everyone else of being liars. Honesty is honesty; it doesn't need a tag. I have found self righteous truth tellers are just another set of flim-flammers.


As a brutally honest person, I think this post is way off point. The only people that struggle with honesty are liars, people who avoid dealing with things, naive people and people who don't listen.

If you're standing in the middle of the street with a bus about to hit you, should I figure out a nice, polite and sensitive way to let you know you're about to be road kill or should I just yell that you're about to die?


I have been lied to a lot throughout my life and its caused me a lot of emotional distress. So, I prefer the honest touch, really.

Plus, different people have different ideas of what they like and dislike, and with music, you can get one performer that one person may love and another person may hate. It's not about the person themselves, just the song they are singing. For example, one well known singer I think is great but my husband doesn't like her. Just an opinion.


People who pride themselves of being brutally honest frequently have absolutely no tact and are highly insecure within themselves. They are so afraid of being taken advantaged of that they feel they should lash out first, which is pathetic.

There is a difference between constructive criticism and being rude and obnoxious. Being aggressive and opinionated gets you nowhere in life but alienation.


You know what gets me about these articles is that they try to turn it into a negative for those people who are brutally honest. The truth is, that if there were more honesty in this world, it would be a better place.

Of course the truth can and does hurt often times, but you get over the disappointment instead of being lied to. Another person posted that you waste time when you lie. Time is very precious and something you can't get back.


Kids are told to be honest and not to lie. They are told they are naughty if they lie, so come on -- isn't it a bit contradictory to lie, but expect a child to tell the truth?


People who can't deal with honesty hide from the truth. You can be honest tactfully. For example, I read this article about two good friends who were having a conversation and one said, "Do you think I need to lose weight?" The friend who was always polite in the past decided to tell the other friend that she needed to lose some weight, but was polite about it. As a result, this friend told other people and they fell out with her too -- what for maybe saving her from a heart attack or diabetes?

If you can't be honest, you are an opinion-less nothing.


What if person is brutally honest because he/she doesn't want to be considered as sarcastic or liar? And that person feels that anything but brutal honesty sounds like a mockery?


The brutal, honest truth is when you tell someone how you feel about them in the most negative way possible, just to cause problems. Instead of dropping the drama, you add fuel to it, when you should have ignored the issues and just talked to him or her as you would have liked yourself to be told, no matter how "honest" you feel it needed to be.


Have you heard of the saying "You can draw more flies with honey than you can with vinegar." I, too believe in constructive criticism not destructive. People who feel that they have to be brutally honest have issues. If they want to be brutally honest with me I can be brutally honest about them. Others can dish it out, but in return can't take it.


So what some comments seems to imply is that it is all right to lay out honest information no matter how cutthroat it sounds? I doubt that's the intent of said comments.

We're all human, and we're all capable of being wounded by critique. Sure, some more than others, but why should honesty and truthful information be expressed in a manner as to be a verbal guillotine to sharply and swiftly critique? Perhaps it's to save time, more than anything. Impatience leads to brutal honesty. We all must learn to be more patient.


Would you rather be told the truth and your feelings hurt or told a lie and your feelings spared? In the end the truth will always show itself. I'll take the brutal truth please. That way I can move on and quit wasting time. A lie, on the other hand, is a huge waste of my time when I could have been moving on to better things. A lie is more brutal since you waste the one precious thing you have: time.


Sociopaths rationalize (mostly to themselves) their brutality by throwing in the tag word honesty. But it is more about being hurtful than helpful. And it is in itself dishonest. It is more about being brutal than honest. Brutal honesty, which I would define as destructive criticism, is by virtue the opposite of constructive criticism.


Some people confuse being brutally honest with being a brute while being honest.


Brutally honest people have no compassion for others. Being brutally honest does not mean a person is not a liar; it only means they are willing to hurt someone's feelings and crush their self esteem. It's about abuse.


I had a girlfriend who liked to brag about how brutally honest she could be -- but only when someone else's feelings were at stake, never her own. Over the course of the relationship I found out she lied quite a lot and had a abusive streak in her.

So now when anyone tells me how brutally honest they are, I suspect what they really mean is that they can be emotionally abusive.


I am a person who is considered brutally honest by some, but I am also very kind. I find that people who don't like brutal honesty hide and lie a lot. They just can't stand the sound of truth. It is what it is.


That statement itself is a deceit. Vanity is their best policy. The truth helps. The fool hurts. Why believe in a mind you can't see?!

"Vain" means to give into your ego. Thus, there are only false praises to give. "Humble" means to resist your ego. Thus, there is only truth to give. It's best to praise Allah all alone than to play tug of truth.

I feel wrong for even talking to people. Is anyone else humble? Nothing is as sick/distressing as the ego (id). Only to Allah (the Truth) must we all return to in the end.


This wise geek article seems to have missed many of the positive aspects of brutal honesty. Many times (as mentioned in the posts) it takes a strong and secure person to honestly deliver the truth. Also, brutal honesty clears away lies.

What one person calls social tact or good manners - another person calls crap - or untrustworthy feigning. Our society (in my opinion) will experience more wellness and people can grow more when truth is revealed.

I think it was Dr. Phil who said we can only change what we acknowledge - and well, the well mannered deceivers rob people of seeing helpful things that can make them stronger and healthier!

Of course, we need to not be awkward and brutal. Honesty needs good delivery, but not everyone with brutal honesty is deflecting or lacking. Instead, many have maturity, insight and integrity as they speak up, even if it is difficult.


People who are offended to this so-called "brutally honest" person are the people who cannot accept criticism. It's as simple as that. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any notice of this person.


Hmm, as someone who is normally considered 'brutally honest' or negative, I find some of these opinions off. I'm not only brutally honest to friends, mostly to help them, but I'm brutally honest towards myself--all the time.

Most of my honesty derives from a lack of bias, which allows me to criticize anyone, without considering emotion in myself. This allows me to see the situation from a third party perspective and help others, as well as myself.

Unfortunately, while I'm not paying attention to emotion I might become a bit too blunt and forget to calculate 'hurt' into my equation. I don't like to hurt people intentionally. Most people aren't worth that type of time. I also believe that most brutally honest people don't mean it in that way either because most normal people have a huge amount of bias in their speech if they're trying to hurt people. I could be naive in this matter when it comes to other people, however.


Brutally honest people are more interested in the brutality than the honesty. Often they feel free to criticize, but they don't like it if they are criticized. A friend of mine responded to a female's post on a dating site about how brutally honest she was by pointing out that she appeared to fat. Her reply to him clearly showed that she did not like his brutal honesty. So, be careful about bragging about brutal honesty. What goes around comes around.


I appreciate the focus of the article but I will mention one thought: it is a point well taken to give advice as if expert on something, simply for caring for others enough to do so.

Were I now to say that the article was written to make someone sound smarter than the rest of us, I might make one point, while cheating fairness, much as I perceive the piece may have done the interests of those who have simply had it up to here with any dishonesty at all. This concept, while we're psychoanalyzing the brutally honest, seems to have been left out. The article vilifies the brutally honest as having some flaw, more than not (save the point of wanting to get the attention of the recipient). Now, for example, look at Claire Chennault. Known for his open criticism, mostly of those who were holding him down, we might see a reason: not to inflict pain on others, but to vindicate ourselves of the dishonesty we perceive antagonistic to us.

I, for one, have become severely blunt, not by choice, but because I cannot stand being/having been patient with liars/bullies/arrogance. I had been so for ages, and it has only left me more angered with each subsequent event of 'bending' the truth or, at worst, lying barefaced.

I now address honest people with lavish praise for their virtue; the liars I am quite at ease with smearing the filth of their perfidy before anyone else who may be taken in by them, and this is reflected somewhat in my being more blunt unilaterally, even among friends and coworkers.

I feel little problem with telling people how it is now, thanks to the sensitization by so much dishonesty in others in the past. I prefer to be pleasant, even being gentle in criticism to the point it doesn't sound at all critical, which is truly my ideal. But I've simply had it at times, and will snap at any apparent deviousness with very frank, factual where I say and opinionated where I say, expression. Some truth can hurt; I don't even like that- but to those who show themselves insensitive to others' hurts, I let them have both barrels, honestly.

I would simply include the "No more Mr. Nice Guy" impetus to in-your-face, realistic, fairness visa vis "brutal honesty". Often, we have little choice but to face a world so steeped in dishonesty with the strong medicine of our own certainty.

Thanks for the article, in general.


I believe mostly this element of honesty/gentleness comes from the lineage. Sometimes we try to be clever and cheat someone but unsuccessfully and get caught, which puts us in deep embarrassment and then we make up our minds not to indulge anything which is not acceptable to our personality.

Though you need to be more smarter, aggressive, fair or unfair to survive in the professional/business world but again after some time you show your true color and get out of the race.

Undoubtedly, truthfulness, honesty and genuineness have long lives and keep you fit physically and mentally because you do not have fear of exposure and mostly remains strong and self disciplined and that is what our missioners/forefathers/philosophers have been teaching us for generations.

But, of course, such people suffer a lot because they are sensitive and emotional in nature and therefore gets immediate feeling of disturbance. That is why they generally go for a cool, peaceful job and remain backbenchers which keeps them eclipsed from the fast moving society.

I have read about Hitler, Stalin, Alexander, Caesar and other successful rulers of the past, all had been found very aggressive, repressive, despotic, clever

opportunists, diplomats, brutal and whatnot, which took them to the unimaginable height of their political crusade. Had they not been like that, their names would have never been in the history.

But everyone cannot be so and therefore we have to agree that this world is a mixture of dual personalities and fortunately or unfortunately, we are part of such mixture.


Brutal honesty isn't always meant to be unjust, uncalled for, or painful for the receiver. Sometimes, people are accused of being brutally honest by people who are overly sensitive to begin with.

Being honest and speaking the truth in order to shed light on a situation -- no matter what the truth is or how hard it may be to hear it - well, I think the delivery (tone of voice, setting, over/under display of emotion, etc.) of the honesty is what upsets people just as much.

When I am thought of as being brutally honest, I do have to consider the sensitivity and maturity of the recipient. And I wouldn't say things so bluntly if I didn't truly care.

Some people, whether they like it or not, need people to be more brutally honest with them sometimes. Not all, but a few.


Maybe I'm unclear as to what you are referring to as brutal honesty, because to me, it seems you are way off base. Criticizing open (perhaps blunt and to the point) honesty as a means for the "offender" to express their pent up hostility & hurt others. That reasoning could not be further from the truth, at least for me.

If and when I choose to be "brutally" honest with someone, it is because I am telling them something that, if I were in their shoes, I would want to know. Just because no one else has the guts to speak up because of some human-made rules of etiquette does not make it wrong for a real friend to clue a person in to something they are not seeing for themselves.

Take that into consideration the next time you start judging someone for being "brutally" honest. It may have taken them a great deal of courage to speak that truth.


Why do people shy away from the truth? Especially in circumstances where we really need to be honest! In situations where we need to, we can lose the point in yelling and arguing. Get your point across in giving them a greeting card, yes, a greeting card!


I was once friends with someone who claimed to be brutally honest in life, and yet at the same time they have had a history of being a very good and practiced liar. You say one thing, and you do another change your mind about stuff within seconds of making a decision. I am not a fan of someone who is brutally honest!


I have been at the butt end of needing to be brutally honest in the same manner Christ was, in a church, simply because I wanted people to stop being hypocrites, it was negatively affecting the lives of myself and others.

It wasn't my fault for getting burdened and weighed down by the constant insight on things I don't want to know. I don't own a thick pair of rose colored glasses, and the only release is if these people repent and be done with it.

We all have to change, me included. I work at it every day. Criticism doesn't hurt me in the least, I'm not a baby. I do appreciate the truth! Don't blame me, I didn't do anything.

Christ wasn't a hater when he rebuked the Pharisees. He loved, and he knew that telling the truth would lead to them wanting to kill him! But it had to be done. The reason why people like to defame those who shine a light in the dark places is because they are resentful. However it's really their own fault.

Go back and correct yourself like I have to all the time, and don't blame me for your stupidity. I'm not at fault for seeing blatant hypocrisy and deceit and e-mails, it's those who think no one out there notices or is affected. You are responsible for how your actions and words affect others. Deal with it.

I'm not a hater at all. I feel such love, but I'm learning that sadly, the only "haters" are the people who deny and won't repent. They seem to be very brutal towards honest people, trying to turn things around, and defame those who've done nothing wrong. Just totally scapegoating, lying and doing anything to save face. Ridiculous, and yet still everyone knows what's going on!

I'm not hurt by all this. It's really if people want to do evil, and don't want to be seen, then don't flaunt it, simply and try to cover it, because I really don't want to see all your trash. keep it away. thanks.


Typically a brutally honest person thinks they have an authority over people. The arch nemesis for a brutally honest person is someone who doesn't care or value them.

"Sorry, brutally honest person, but let me be brutally honest for a moment. I really don't care, not just about what comes out of your mouth but also what's going on inside your head. So you can continue speaking to deaf ears or you can just shut up and save everyone a headache." (that'll really drive someone mad.)


The truth wouldn't be the truth if it didn't hurt. Grow yourself a backbone and get over it.


People who are brutally honest get more satisfaction out of the brutality than out of the honesty.


I don't care for brutal honesty because all the brutally honest people I've met have been nasty. Their "honesty" only made me feel worse about myself, and this is coming from someone who can usually take criticism with a grain of salt.

To me, constructive criticism means telling the person what they did well on, as well as telling the person what they need to improve on.

Not having tact may not be a good thing in the work place either.


One thing I didn't seem to find in the article was what about those who are brutally honest reg. themselves and there are some out there, not many, however there are, and i find them to be intolerant w/ those who are dishonest w/ others and themselves and act upon this.


Brutal and honesty just don't seem to go together.

Brutal honesty usually is someone's brutal "opinion".

Honesty should not need an opinion but be based on the truth or facts. Questions answered so called honestly usually start out with a question prompting a response such as Does this look good? The answer is opinion.

On the other hand when asked "did you see him go threw the red light? Honesty isn't to judge a person who does run the light, but to state what you actually saw with out the commentary.

So, in order to stop being brutal or to avoid being brutalized, be sure to phrase your questions properly.

Of, course you still need to look out for the unsolicited "vocals"!


Honesty is real, but is honesty defined? I believe persons having different ethnicities and religious/cultural frames of reference have different views and thus what is true to one may not be true to another.


Isn't there a Medical reason for being this way? I saw it on "House," the man who makes Simon Cowel look like a Softy.


Sooner or later all of us will be dead. That doesn't make anyone feel good however, it is a fact.

I am bandy-legged and knocked-kneed, my legs are too short for my body. I would be foolish to attempt to be a male model. I have a terrible voice, should I brave Simon Cowell's wrath and try-out for American idol? Some people who have should've asked their friends to be more honest with them. Some humans do pride themselves in being brutally honest. Does any human have anything to be proud of? Does a human give themselves the ability to learn, or to be an artist, or an Olympic athlete? Honesty is the best policy, even when it hurts.


There is not any specific brutal honesty. Honesty means honesty, it is not linked with ups and downs and it does not have any background. It is merely because of the inner will.

Questions usually arise when someone is dishonest. It is clear that honesty does not need any help of any sort.



"Brutal honesty" should only be used when it is also "useful honesty." Otherwise, it is likely to cross over into "cruel honesty."

One day a man stopped his car when he saw a farmer whipping a mule. The visitor called to the man and said, "That's no way to treat a mule. You should treat him kindly." "Well, if you think you can do better, come and try it." The man climbed the fence, picked up a fence post, went over and hit the mule between the eyes with it causing the mule to fall down onto his knees. The farmer exclaimed, "I thought you said to treat him kindly." "I am going to treat him kindly, but first I had to get his attention!'

Brutal honesty may be the only way to get some people's attention.

Donald W. Bales


I agree with anon9305's views, only perhaps substituting "brutally" with "tactfully."


peace142814: Excellent comment, good points! Regarding my own reaction to the article: I have found, in my over half-century of studying people, that most "brutal honesty" is not honesty at all!! It is rather a device used for disingenuous criticism designed to simply be mean or sadistic - the "honesty" part plays no part except that a brutally honest remark might actually be an honest opinion, but not necessarily by any means.


I like this site, it inspires me to join in. But you (anon9305) have the definition of construction criticism wrong, look it up in the dictionary. Constructive criticism is positive support of someone's efforts with their feelings in mind. Brutal honesty is when people's feelings are disregarded. So, to be brutally honest, you're a bunch of idiots! But to be constructive I like your points and I think you should really direct the post towards how to be a supportive critic and preface any criticism with praise for the subject's efforts. Good luck.


I am seeing a change in the way we raise kids. More and more children development seems to focus too strongly on only the positives at the near total exclusion of constructive criticism. Take for example the practice of awarded trophies for kids that just show up or participate as opposed to try real hard (most improved) or are the best (mvp). Some situations, I think, call for more brutal honesty or perhaps it is more appropriately called constructive criticism. That approach of only positive reinforcement might promote mediocrity -- a goal of just being happy with how things naturally are as opposed to striving for progress which some might argue is real fulfillment. If the brutal honesty comes from a good place, a place wanting the recipient to be better and in return _feel_ better about himself and his capabilities, then I don't see it as something negative. Of course, as the article states, if it comes from a negative place where it is only meant to _hurt_ the listener, clearly that is a type of brutal honesty that should be avoided and strongly discouraged.

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