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Is there such a thing as "too honest"
May 13, 2005
2:40 pm
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kc30
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What do you think...a friend in crisis...is it brutal honesty at all times, or do you think sometimes it's best to shut your mouth to support that friend?

This came from a conversation on the Support threads...and my friends and I debate it often- we're pretty split down the middle (and we're a bunch of big-mouths too so you can just imagine how heated this can get!)

I'll start...personally don't believe that brutal truth at all times is always appropriate. I've seen friendships destroyed because of ill-timed truth-telling. I'm not talking about telling lies, but rather about sharing your opinions on their life and choices...

I've been on the receiving end of very poorly timed "tough love". It wasn't pretty, and I can tell you, it didn't help. I needed to hear:

You will be ok
You will get through this
I love you
I'm here for you etc etc

What I got was "He's a blah blah...you did this wrong, and shouldn't have done this and should have done that" For a girl who had just had the proverbial shit kicked out of her, it was too much to take.

What do you guys think?

kc

May 13, 2005
3:24 pm
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jamaicanwife
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I think that there is a balance we have to find between how much we need to SAY what is on our minds and how much the other person needs to HEAR what is on our minds. sometimes it seems to me that people get such a rush from unloading on you that their need to feel good supercedes their concern for you.

May 13, 2005
3:35 pm
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eve
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In think that on average there is too much treading on eggshells, being too careful, staying stuck in misery, because we're afraid to adress the important bits. But of course there are times when somebody is raw, and needs to heal first and foremost, and has no capacity whatsoever for anything else. It would be great if we always knew the difference, when giving advice. It would also be great to be able to tell the person giving us advice what we need - and have them listen.

And I think that it is very important to give feedback in a way that is as nonthreatening and nonjudgemental as possible. Asking questions (real questions, not rhetorical ones) seems to work better than telling people what to think - because telling people what to think is really a violation of boundaries, isn't it?

May 13, 2005
3:36 pm
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Cici
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You have to be true to yourself. I don't appreciate people BS-ing me, and more often than not people dissemble too much. Support, yes, that's good - but you can do so and still express your honest opinion. I have an inability to lie to friends and family. I can't keep my mouth shut.

My oldest sister, for example, is married to a bum who forces her to pay for everything related to their 3 children. I can't support their relationship any more, so I simply refuse to talk about it with her. I've made my peace and said what I felt about it and that's that.

When you love someone you are honest with them, I think. I do this with others because that's what I want for myself. No pats on the back or support, but honest and slightly more objective opinions.

That's just me, though. I dare not impose my personal feelings on everyone else.

May 13, 2005
3:37 pm
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Cici
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Edit -

also, when you've seen a friend fall into the same hole over and over again, how much support can you offer?

May 13, 2005
3:50 pm
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exoticflower
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I think you can usually tell by the friend...I say frequently 'input?' and 'be honest' here and in my everyday life. I have a friend that says 'I'm so hurt' and 'I hate this', but isn't asking input or advice usually, just comfort. People often say what they need just in the way they ask for support, I've found.

May 13, 2005
3:51 pm
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exoticflower
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JW, very good point...something I'm guilty of myself sometimes!

May 13, 2005
3:58 pm
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eve
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exoticflower,

you wrote 'People often say what they need' - that's the problem, I think. People say what they *want*, not necessarily what they really need. At least I do, because often I don't realize/know/admit what's good for me. Often a smooth combination between support and kind but firm feedback is best.

May 13, 2005
4:23 pm
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Cici
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Honestly - I wish people had been more upfront with me when I was with my ex. I wouldn't have wasted so much time and pain on him.

May 13, 2005
4:33 pm
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exoticflower
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It is true about the 'need/want' thing a lot I suppose--at the same time, I know that many people tried to tell me about my ex early on, and I just wasn't ready to hear it. It isn't much different (for me) than it must be for an alcoholic or drug addict that just isn't willing to hear what doesn't support their addiction. I am grateful to some of the people who tried to tell me, but some of them came on so strong that it soured things later. Sort of like what Jamaicanwife said about needing to speak your mind more than they need to hear it...

May 13, 2005
4:36 pm
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exoticflower
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This is an interesting topic, kc. I wonder if you shouldn't be more honest with people on this site than with people in your day to day life because we come here actively seeking feedback and perspective, where one not trying to get better really may not be asking for any input?

May 13, 2005
4:45 pm
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Cici
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I think you hit the nail on the head.

May 13, 2005
5:22 pm
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This is the 'other' reason I rarely post anymore... cuz you mostly don't need any advice from me on how to use these boards - you do it yourselves! The nail has been HIT here. thanks.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

May 13, 2005
5:30 pm
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Amazed
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My two cents.

It's hard to make a valid judgement on a web site as to what people "need". I think you have to make an analysis of what is best and, quite honestly, some of us are better at one thing vs. another.

The one thing I see as a common issue here is people will post to influence. In other words how a person starts a thread can give you insight into what they want you to believe. I'm a firm believer that you don't judge on these posts. I get so frustrated by someone posting with judgmental items thrown in long before anyone has had the opportunity to analyse them. How can you create your own version of the story with only the odd or even chapters filled in. You can't. Yet we automatically assume here that we have the whole story.

I have to agree that we all need a hug once in awhile but how do you know when the best time is to do that vs. the honesty part???? I still really have to voice a concern over either part and when it's approprite. If you tell someone everything is fine and it's really not have you done them justice. How many times do we read about drugs or physical abuse. Is it ok to then give comfort or is it time to be brutally honest?

May 13, 2005
5:42 pm
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exoticflower
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I think that is up to the person responding, their approach to reaching out. If you don't feel comfortable being brutally honest, than you shouldn't, and I have a feeling that around here SOMEONE will. I think for the most part I have seen good judgement exercised in that area...

May 13, 2005
5:50 pm
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Hi Amazed,

I suppose people can state clearly in their thread, that they want ONLY hard-hitting feedback, or ONLY hugs, or a combination. Maybe that would help clear up the confusion? But I think the past rule of thumb is, it's like checking the "next day delivery" box on an overnight envelope. If you don't check it, the delivery person assumes you want it (give hard-hitting feedback + support), but if you check "2nd day delivery", just give support.

You wrote: "I get so frustrated by someone posting with judgmental items thrown in long before anyone has had the opportunity to analyse them. How can you create your own version of the story with only the odd or even chapters filled in. You can't. Yet we automatically assume here that we have the whole story."

Are you saying that's what people currently do on the site, and it could possibly be corrected? Or that it's a flaw of an online discussion board in general? Or something different than either choice?

I've got examples of this, both ways.

1) On this thread:

"is there different types of codependency?"

I see good examples of the 'helpers/advice givers' asking questions to clarify/dig up facts from the 'helpee'. I think that thread is a good example of what we might accidentally assume, and then clarify, through asking questions, being patient, waiting a day, and coming back for a response. Nothing here is really intended to be immediate. In fact, I have encouraged in the past, people taking time and care in helping folks. Immediacy is inacurracy.

2) Do you think you didn't know all of Tracy's story, and could have been somewhat judgmental? But who's to judge what judgmental is? Some people may think you were, others not. It's hard to judge, what judging "is" sometimes. Sometimes it's clear cut, sometimes not. Input on what judging is, is appreciated.

... well it's the weekend... and I have no idea if I'm making sense or creating more confusion. So good night.

May 13, 2005
5:52 pm
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eve
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where does that combination *brutal* + *honest* stem from. Couldn't it be just as well kind+careful+honest and brutal+appeasing? Is this *brutal* really real? Is it a reflection of our own fears and judgements, a mixture of putting our judgement first, and of being afraid to hurt, or to loose sympathy when we not conform?

I really would like to put a lot of emphasis on *how* to be honest in a way that can be helpful. Sometimes our ego, our fears, our own triggers can be big obstacles to being kind and careful - as well as honest.

May 13, 2005
6:01 pm
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exoticflower
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I find honesty feels less 'brutal' when I know someone is speaking frm their own experiances and relating on some level (when I first broke up wih my ex, I had to face-- about myself. Once I--and-- happened. I could see that happening with you because--) rather than just throwing a comment out without saying where they are coming from ('you should never--, it's distructive. This is a situation that doesnt work' and so on)

If that makes sense...? Nursing and typing at the same time here...

May 13, 2005
7:47 pm
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On the 13-May-05 you wrote:

"Input on what judging is, is appreciated."

We all make judgments about what is 'good' or 'bad' for us and others almost all the time.

When we get out of bed, we do so usually without a lot of consciousness of the decisionmaking processes going on in our head. Yet the act of getting out of bed in the morning is based upon a judgment that we need to do so because we need to do this or that for our own or someone else's welfare.

When we talk of "judging" others, it seems to me that we are usually talking about taking the 'moral high ground'. The 'defendant' may either feel patronized, looked down upon, denigrated or be totally appreciative and grateful, etc depending upon their past baggage. The 'judge' may well be seeking to compensate for gross feelings of inadequacy by levering himself/herself up on the self-righteous 'high ground'. Or on the other hand the 'judge' may just be trying to be helpful. The combinations and permutations are many.

It seems to me that what we are really talking about here are 'intentions' rather than 'judgments'. There are the intentions of the person doing the 'judging'. Then there are the judged person's perceptions of what he/she thinks are the intentions of the person doing the 'judging'.

In face to face communications all sensory channels are available to guarantee some small degree of reliability of accurate communications taking place. However on this site only intonationless words are used in the 'encoding' of the message. I suspect that the person who reads and 'decodes' the message rarely does so without adding in the intonations to the words in his/her own head. These intonations have a critical bearing on how the message is interpreted! Yet I doubt that most people are even aware that it is their 'past baggage' that is deciding what they 'hear' when they read the typed words in a post.

Thus we, the 'judged' may well be injecting judgmental intonations into the written words, or comparing them with 'memory scripts' in our heads imprinted there during past traumatic events. We may attribute the same intentions and motives to people posting on this site that we accurately or otherwise perceived in some abuse 'perpetrator' from the past.

Incorrectly or correctly 'judging' the intentions of another who we perceive as 'judging' us, can result in much suffering for us. Who is causing the suffering - the 'judge' or the 'judged'? Are not both participants' demons from the past jousting in an unconscious quest to 'feel OK' about themselves?

Is not irrational, unconscious and unchallenged fear the real 'culprit'? When we feel either under attack or that we are being judged on this site, should we not be examining our own underpinning fear rather than 'judging' the 'judge' in return?

May 13, 2005
8:06 pm
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Rasputin
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I believe in Honesty. I think honest people like honest input, feedback, views,...and vice versa. I always look for honest friends, answers, companies, dealers...etc.

When we love, we tend to tell people the truth about themselves and vice versa. When and if people get angry, it simply means that they do not want to face the truth.

I was truthful and upfront about a number of people in my life out of love. Some took it to heart and started to work on improving themselves; others got angry, critical and defensive.

I am optimistic for those who took it to heart. I can see the potential in them. The others I try to keep my distance from them.

When I have a truthful and upfront friend, I consider my self very lucky. We cannot improve and progress in life without taking an invertory from someone trustworthy, loving friends who criticize in love cause they want us to grow and change.

After all, is not that what we are doing here?

I do want every one to be honest, truthful and upfront with me at all times.

However, blunt honesty is rudeness. It is unhealthy, unnecessary, destructive, lacking in sensitivity and diplomacy.

May 14, 2005
10:49 am
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Desert Moon
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I do believe in being honest, but how that honesty is received by the other party is largley dependent on how it is presented.

For instance, if someone has a new haircut that you don't like and they ask you if you like it, do you say, "No I hate it, it looks terrible on you." ? I am sure you could witness one's heart being ripped out before your very eyes if you were 'brutally honest' (KC's words). Yet if you gave your truly honest opinion diplomatically, you could say, "It's a great haircut, but I liked it better the way you wore it before." That gives a much softer answer that is more readily recieved. (of course this is assuming that it really is a great haircut that just doesn't happen to look good on the person).

Often a person who asks for an honest opinion already knows the truth, but they just don't want it thrown at them. They just want to talk, open up, share. They want the support of someone being available to talk to, and the person can be honest with them in a diplomatic manner.

However, the problem is many people in a bad situation don't get beyond the first step of acknowledging a problem exists and stay in their unhappy predicaments indefinitely. The people they originally turned to for support find themselves caught up in an ongoing drama ("if you don't like it why don't you just leave? You've been telling me this for three years now.")

The only thing one can do as the supportive friend is be there for them, offer honest and diplomatic advice only if it is asked of them, and remain supportive only as long as they are able to tolerate it. They cannot compel the person in crisis to change.

If a supportive friend can no longer tolerate being used as a sounding board, then they must honestly and diplomatically remove themselves from the situation.
("Look, I have done all I can to support you, but this is wearing me out - we can do other things as friends but I do not want to hear any more about your situation).

That puts the ball in the other person's court, they can choose to stay in or leave the friendship, and sets boundaries for yourself so that you are not getting caught up in the situation.

May 15, 2005
6:57 pm
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hopeinhim
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There is this book called "Friedman's Fables", and one of the stories in it is about everybody being able to read each other's minds. It does not go over very well.

I really admire my husband's restraint sometimes. When he is anxious and emotional sometimes he will really think before he speaks. That really impresses me.

I think you can make mistakes if you say everything you are thinking. That is where regret and irreprable harm come in.

However, if somebody is doing something which they don't realize is effecting communication with others for example - then I think it does not hurt to start out this way.....

There is something that I have noticed you do sometimes which kind of frustrates me. Do you want to know more about that?

Make sure it is an okay time to talk.
If they are tired, busy, already stressed then it might not be a good time.

People who can be truly honest with each other are so valueable. Like everybody on this site!

May 16, 2005
12:08 am
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Amazed
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I'm reading these responses and agree with them BUT I don't agree these things can all be done on a web site. We're making a whole lot of assumptions that you are able to "judge" the person's demenor or the "look" they have at the time. You CAN'T honestly do that here. Oh sure we all think we can, but if you seriously think about any of this string can you? I don't believe so.

A dishonest person has a hard time looking people in the eye or they shows signs of uneasyness. A sorrowful person might give a good spin on line but yet could be in tears while writing. I wonder how you'd react to a person who had tears but were laughing. You might think they have lost it or are in trouble. Here you would never see that - yet they might be fine. Or some people just write in a way where they sound sad, angry whatever. People tell me I'm that way. So do I think I am - no. This is a site where no one knows your name, no one knows you by your looks and you have any opportunity to make yourself or your situation into anything you want it to be. THAT is important for me to remember here which is why I feel it is important to ask, maybe over and over. When a detective finds a suspect and they bring him in for questioning do you think they just send one detective in get the story and make a judgement from that one story. NO WAY. They take information gathered immediatly at the scene, information gathered from numerous interviews and determine, by comparison, what the persons story is here.

So although it might be great to get a feel for the person I wonder how people do it? Solely by words written. How do you know that is the absolute truth without ever asking a question. How many automatically assume everything written is honest? Sometimes I read an initial post and it's one way, then after a few posts the story gets told again with a little more info. Then a little more and more until the story is quite a bit different now. I feel the value we can offer is to ask first and not judge.

SC I agree with you that "Immediacy is inacurracy" but it happens all the time here. I get so frustrated to read of a post about a friend, boyfriend, lover, etc. and immediatly people react to the story told not to ask about the person to try and understand. Or my favorite is kind of what started this thread - "I've found myself now and have gotten rid of all the bad people in my life - I've decided to not let the bad ones inpact me and my new direction" or something like that. I gave the analogy the other day. Someone gets on and writes "OMG I dumped my boyfriend cause he ski's awful. Can you believe that he actually skis without a second ski! What an idiot - he didn't even know everyone uses two skis!". Then you see "Oh you go girl anyone that stupid doesn't deserve you!!! - You are much better than that idiot!" HUH - hello. Yet if we asked why he didn't use the ski maybe we could find out he really knew what he was doing. Or better yet - what about the person who is dumping the whole world because "they" have found a new life - full of friends and "better, smarter" people. Yep their all into drugs and I like drugs now so these people are all very cool. So do we just write supportive things back because that person is happy and is sounding better in their posts? Why can't we ask?

I look at this site as a counseling site. One where we help each other yes by supporting but when it's approprite and accurate. I don't think you can just get on here and agree because someone is a friend or has given you good advice before. I think we owe it to each other and this site to be more than just comforting friends.

As far as the "brutally honest" comment I made - my explaination to that statment is "brutally" doesn't mean MEAN or abusive. It means honest and maybe painful because you are hitting home. Not said to just make someone mad. Again it can be to easy to write what you want people to believe. "Oh I'm gorgeous and I get stared at all the time" "Oh I'm so much smarter than all the people I work with - I don't understand how they can be that way" - those are the ones I love to ask more questions to because I have to wonder why they would be posting such a statement here. That tells me that person really might be hiding some hidden issues by trying to tell everyone they are better than everyone else. I guess what I'm trying to show is a good reason to ask questions before just making a judgement. Or at least listening to the posts and making a determination before just jumping in and agreeing with everything that is said. That to me makes this site all about counseling!

SC, I don't really care to discuss the Tracylyn issues any longer. I have moved on and I don't think it's fair to continue here when she might not be aware we are discussing it again in another thread. But I will say this about MY postings there - there were many many posts on that string before I said anything. She wrote a lot and I based what I said on not only those posts but many posts she has had out here about herself and her ex. Based on your responses I think there are many who know more than what was written. I followed up, using detail from her previous posts on that string, to show where I drew my conclusions from. She didn't write that she disagreed with any of them and in fact wrote to say she wanted feedback - not only once but twice. So in conclusion I don't agree with you that I was making judgements with only part of the story. Again, by reading multiple posts on the same thread, having discussions on other threads with her and others, along with reading many posts that people have made about that topic of Tracylyn's past I felt pretty good to say what I did. What is unfortunate is that she felt I was saying she was lying or had lied to her children. I have gone back and read and reread that post for about 5 days now - trying to decipher and learn from it. I think everyone that posted something should go back and reread it. It's very long but there is a valuable story to be told there. I think I hit some nerves and learned along the way.

I do agree with some here that maybe a softer approach is better but I will NEVER just put something out there just to make someone feel better. I think it's better to just not say anything and I think most of you will see that it's very rare that I ever post here. I do more reading and learning. Only lately due to this one string have I written so much here. Lesson learned.

My intention is not to take this site down in any way. I enjoy it and think it's a good place to learn but I also ask that we all take a breath before we post. Be HONEST with each other and more importantly with ourselves. And to ask a couple of questions of the poster to try and understand or pull more information out before just offering up support. That can be just as dangerous.

Listen and learn, judge and be lonely.

Sorry for the length. Been thinking of this whole post for a couple of days now.

May 16, 2005
12:45 am
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This is an excellent thread!

-ella

May 16, 2005
9:25 am
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kc30
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I don't believe in enabling and really liked what a lot of people have said...I agree, particularly with:

Not being judgemental...big one for me as I'm still learning. If a person's actions spark a negative emotional response...like "I can't believe they are doing that!", then you are sitting in a place of judgement. If you can look at someone objectively, see a person making choices that don't seem to be good for them, but not react indignantly, then I don't think you are judging. Judging has a "you are wrong to be doing what you're doing" feel to it. And if you are being "honest" in that frame of mind, you can be damn sure your friend will feel it, and you won't really be helping at all.

You can discern destructive behaviour from healthy behaviour without being judgemental. You can also set healthy boundaries without being judgemental.

kc

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