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Luis Javier Salvador

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Is it always possible to be honest and polite at the same time?

One could argue that honesty and politeness are mutually exclusive in certain circumstances, especially when you are pressed to share your opinion on a particular subject/person. We all know that sometimes the truth hurts (or at least, "your truth").

Some people may think that the only way to get along with everybody is by not being completely honest (or by downright lying) and compliment them, as this way they would then think highly of you.

It's also curious that we tend to like the people we agree with more than the ones we disagree with. Certainly, It's really difficult to make friends with somebody who disagrees with you on almost every matter (even if on trivialities), which is a shame, as this person could be a potential friend full of love, generosity and good advice.

Are we living in a fake society where honest people are being penalized for sharing his true feelings/opinions?

Where is the line between honesty and rudeness? Is it fair to be untrue to your feelings for the sake of good manners? Are there some truths that should never be told?

What do you think?

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    Jan 7 2013: It is possible to be honest and polite if you think about it first. When people ask for an opinion, they are usually seeking for acceptance. It isn't always necessary to give your opinion, especially if your opinion isn't going to change anything other than the other person's opinion of you. I had a coworker ask me what I thought about her new car. The fact is, I didn't like the color or the style. Knowing that she liked it, I said "isn't it nice to have something that you can truly enjoy". She said "yes it is" and was very happy with that answer. I wasn't going to buy her car nor was I going to have to drive it, so my opinion didn't really matter. I reverted to her own opinion and acknowledged her fondness of the car.

    When your opinion does matter, you have several options; seek something positive to comment on, say something constructive, offer suggestions that might be helpful in some way, or stand up to what is just and right. I have never been accused of not telling the truth, nor have I ever been accused of being rude.

    Saying something negative, even if it is true, that doesn't allow options to change anything for the better is just plain poor judgement.

    As far as disagreements go, everyone has a right to their opinion and they may be based on reasons unknown to us. I keep an open mind and focus on what will make for a better world. And then again, some things are better left unsaid.
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      Jan 7 2013: I agree with most of what you say and do. I think it's a very natural and rational way to deal with other human beings, but don't you think it's somewhat disconcerting to know that if other people have a good opinion of you, it could be just because they don't know your real thoughts? (even if your opinion doesn't really matter).
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        Jan 8 2013: There is an old saying, opinions are like butt-holes, everyone has one and they all stink. We are not required to like what everyone else likes, nor are we required to tell them so. I believe that we should treat others the way that we would like to be treated. I choose to be courteous.

        My dislike of another person's car is based on visual cues. I have never driven the car and don't know how it performs. Had I done that, my opinion might be changed. So I don't put a lot of value into opinions unless it deals with issues that have a direct bearing on another's personal safety or well being. The fact that she liked the car is all that mattered to me, and that is all that I chose to divulge. Had she known my true thoughts, would anyone have benefitted? I wasn't going to compromise my friendship just because something that she owned didn't appeal to me. The fact that she didn't know about my true feelings about her car wasn't important. The fact that she knows that I respect her judgement was.
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          Jan 8 2013: I understand your point and, as I said, I think you did the right thing under the circumstances. Maybe the problem is that people in general can't handle contrary opinions very well and then we have to resort to those tricks in order not to offend them.

          In fact, if we really think about it, in an ideal world we shouldn't get offended by other people's opinions on our tastes, even if they are harsh.

          The fact that I don't like someone's car and am willing to share my thoughts with them doesn't make me a bad person. After all, it's just my opinion, they shouldn't feel insulted just because I think in a different way. Despite their horrible taste (in my opinion), I still should be able to think highly of them if they are good people. And they should be able to do the same, even if they completely disagree with me.
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        Jan 9 2013: The fact is, we don't live in an ideal world. Some people are deeply affected by the opinion of others because they are always questioning their own judgement. They want acceptance or approval from others. I give a true opinion when it affects safety or well being, or when it will have a direct impact on me. Otherwise, I revert to what the other person needs to hear for their benefit, not mine. What I think is not important if it can't change anything for the better.

        You give me the impression that you feel that you have a right to your opinions, which is your prerogative. Yet your debate argument leads me to believe that opinions can cause friction. I am trying to give you an alternate viewpoint to what really matters.
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      Jan 11 2013: Dear Roy,
      I agree with much of what you say on this topic, and I agree that it is possible to be honest and polite if you think about it first, and people often ask for an opinion, seeking acceptance. As you say, it isn't always necessary to give our opinion.

      I had a recent situation, where a person asked my opinion about a project that he obviously worked very hard on for a long time....what did I think of the results? After reviewing the project carefully, I did not agree with the creator of the project. I procrastinated for a long time because I knew my opinion was not consistant with his opinion, and I didn't want to hurt his feelings. Finally, he asked me again for my feedback.

      I could only be honest, because I will not ever, tell someone what I think they want to hear if it is not consistant with my own opinion. So, I gave my feedback with as much kindness as possible. I believe it is a dis-service to ourselves and to others when we tell them what we THINK they want to hear. First, it is compromising our own truth and honesty. Second, I perceive it to be a lie....granted, a lie to help another person feel better about themselves....but nevertheless....a lie.

      So, I gave my honest feedback as gently as possible, and the other part of the scenario, is if the person really wants honest feedback, or not. That is a choice s/he makes for him/herself. Personally, I would NOT want someone to tell me something that is not their honest thoughts, feelings, ideas, perceptions, perspectives, etc. I WANT to hear the truth, in that person's perception, I evaluate the information, and decide how I will use the information.
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        Jan 17 2013: Colleen,
        I have read and understand your comment. Some opinions are trivial and not worth the trouble they cause. Some opinions are not trivial and need to be addressed honestly and sincerely if they are to provide any useful purpose.

        When a person is asking for an opinion on a project that may affect the lives of others, anything other than an honest opinion is misleading. If the person requesting the opinion is not able to deal with that, then that is their problem and they need to learn to deal with it.

        I understand the difference between telling someone what they need to hear verses what they might like to hear. Thank you for bringing that up in this topic.
  • Feb 6 2013: Yes, I have always found a way to stay polite and courteous, even in the most challenging of situations...but perhaps this is because it has always been a high priority for me? It matters a great deal to me..I am extremely upset by rudeness, and therefore I speak as I would be spoken to.

    If it is a question of taste, or belief, and I really cannot agree, and feel it is a matter of principle where I cannot be untrue to this principle...I find a way to say nothing, say something obliquely ( for example regarding a painting ..'that is such a strong green, it is just like the grass in spring ' etc), or say something general that is non-judgemental.
    I would take the point of view that if someone is 'a truth-seeker', for want of a better phrase - if they are open to learning more about what is, then they will find it, will hear it, eventually. Contrary wise, if they do not wish to hear another side of truth, they will not, whatever is said.
    That is why I believe in being quiet at times.
    A simple example : many years ago, a friend asked me what I thought of his new name for his band. I didn't like ...but then it wasn't my band, or my idea. I said nothing, and tried to find a polite comment.. But before I could, he said immediately, ' I can see from your face you don't like it at all!'
    However, he still used it, and the first song he wrote under the name was about something I said (about Love).... the song became famous, and is still a classic.
    So I feel by being polite and honest together, something good was achieved, - his respect for me.
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    Jan 31 2013: Sure. Honesty and speaking your mind are quite different. You need not lie about your feelings or position. In certain circumstances it would be inappropriate to contradict someone passionately. If you merely use tact and don't look to say your belief is the right one, you can always be polite without necessarily falsely agreeing.
  • Jan 28 2013: Whether or not an action is "polite" depends largely upon the motivation of the one dispensing the "honesty".
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      Jan 13 2013: Thanks for the link, that was a good talk. It's also important to note that he says that sharing your secrets and being honest doesn't make you a good person. So, it's possible to keep hiding your secrets and tell "white lies" and still be a good person. I guess it all depends on the gravity of the secrets and their implications.
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          Jan 13 2013: I understand and share your view for the most part, you cannot possibly please every single person with your actions, that's for sure.

          I also concur that "a good person" means something different for different people. Therefore, you can lie to people (if that's your nature), be true to yourself and still be a good person in YOUR eyes (and also in anybody else's).

          Some people may have very good reasons to lie and may be proud of that.
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          Jan 13 2013: All right, but that's his respectable attitude towards life. For others, it could be a matter of doing what they think is right, even if that implies not telling the truth.

          In my view, you can lie to people and, at the same time, be true to yourself, as long as that's your philosophy of life. Of course, you wouldn't consider yourself an honest person in a literal sense, but would feel much better about yourself, as you were true to what you believed in.

          It's not about denying your lies but accepting them for a greater good (if that's the case).
  • Jan 8 2013: Probably not always. But, if you think quickly, you can usually be polite and tell the truth, but it may not be the whole truth, or it may not answer the exact question that was actually asked. I did this once and the other person called me on it, saying "You didn't answer my question." I smiled and replied, "Your right, I didn't."

    If you know anyone who can ALWAYS be polite and honest at the same time, suggest that they get a job in diplomacy.
  • Jan 7 2013: Sometimes the truth hurts; honesty is desirable at all times. But wisdom knows when it is time to keep quiet.
    It is not wise to have an opinion about everything.
    We should be able to discern when truth is absolute and when we are tempted to present our opinion as 'truth'.
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    Jan 11 2013: Hello Luis,
    Yes, I think/feel it is possible to be honest and polite at the same time. Did you ever hear the saying..."it is not what we say, but how we say it that is most important"?

    Sometimes, when people ask for my opinion, I ask them if they honestly want my true opinion, because they may not like what I have to say. However, I always try to give feedback in a respectful, polite way.

    I do not find it so "curious" to like the people we agree with more than the ones we disagree with. This simply shows me that the people who agree with each other have more in common, so it seems natural to be drawn to those who share the same opinions.....don't you think?

    I personally, do not feel "penalized for sharing...true feelings/opinions", and in fact, have been told throughout my life that it is clear that I "walk my talk". When we tell people what we think they want to hear, after awhile, OUR own truth appears to be inconsistant, and people perceive this.

    Regarding honesty, rudeness, untrue feelings, good manners, etc.....
    We can speak our truth honestly, kindly, as gently as possible with respect. How that information is received is up to the person with whom we are communicating.
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      Jan 11 2013: Hi Colleen,

      What I meant when I said that I find it odd to like the people we agree with the most is that I feel it shouldn't be that way --though I'm perfectly aware of the society we live in. I just wanted to raise an abstract-philosophical debate-- We can also learn many valuable things from those who think differently --and I'm not talking about having different hobbies now, but different opinions in general-- and they can become our friends as well.

      I understand people disliking those who attack their favorite movies, songs, beliefs or actions, but as long as they are respectful, it shouldn't be that way.

      When it comes to hobbies or activities ,of course, it's seems natural to be drawn to those who share the same hobbies, as we can really enjoy one another's company, but I see no reason to dislike a person just because he/she thinks differently (in an ideal world).

      Actually, we can see many instances in our society where two people have plenty in common, get along very well and spend a lot of time together, but who wrongly take for granted that the other is a good, caring person, just because they always have a wonderful time together. One day, one of them may discover that the other doesn't even care about his/her well-being. Common interests don't guarantee true friendship.

      Likewise, when we meet someone who dislikes everything we like/do, we tend to think he/she is a bad person and not worthy of our friendship but, in fact, it could very well be the opposite. He/she could really care about us and be a good person and friend.

      As for the rest of your message, I admire your bravery in sharing your true opinions when asked. It's not always easy.
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        Jan 12 2013: Oh...I agree Luis, that we can learn a LOT from our differences. When I wrote about agreeing and sharing opinions, I was thinking/feeling on a deeper level....respecting and accepting each other WITH our differences....being able to share those differences honestly and politely with respect.

        I don't understand people disliking or attacking for any reason. As you say, if people are respectful, there is no reason to dislike or attack. In my perception, we can respect and appreciate people even if we don't agree.

        Like you say.....when we share interests, hobbies, etc., there is usually more to talk about with excitement and joy. It is certainly possible to talk about differences with excitement and joy as well, IF participants are able to do so, I find it enjoyable:>)

        I don't see many reasons to dislike a person. I DO dislike certain behaviors, and am clear about that....abuse, violation of human rights, etc. My mom used to say...hate the behavior...not the person, and I adopted that philosophy.

        I LOVE people, LOVE exploring the differences, and will make it clear, with respect, when I do NOT like behaviors. So, I do not spend time thinking/feeling anyone is a "bad person". I accept that we are all different, and appreciate those differences:>)

        I think/feel sharing true opinions IS easy....the more we do it, the easier it gets.....trust me on that one! LOL. The alternative, is to create an unrealistic, dishonest, persona in order to please others? Then we say our lives are complicated! I believe respectful honesty is more simple, and better for all concerned.

        I agree...common interests do not guarantee true friendship. I have never had the situation you mention....where anyone has appeared to be a good friend and didn't really care. Don't you think we can perceive that in each other? I believe that if we are open hearted, open minded, and mindfully aware, we can "feel" who is authentic and who is not? That has been my experience anyway, and I am gratefull.
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          Jan 12 2013: Yes, I do think we can perceive goodness in people over time, but not so at the beginning, when we can easily get carried away by the excitement of meeting someone with common interests.

          When we are having such a great time, it's easier for other people to make a good impression on us, as we somehow associate our happiness with them. All this fun and enjoyment can cloud our minds. After all, it's difficult to dislike a person who loves the things you love, enjoy the activities you enjoy and agree with everything you say, isn't it?.

          It's not a matter of them being insincere or not, but of us linking fun, enjoyment, acceptance and captivating dialogs with goodness, which is not always true.

          By the way, my first impression is that you are a good person, but not necessarily because of your fascinating opinions or our shared commonalities, but because of the way you see the world :)
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        Jan 12 2013: Interesting points Luis...

        How about if we do not "associate our happiness with them"? How about if we trust our own ability to create happiness in ourselves? Do you think we would still get "carried away", and not pay attention to other aspects of the interaction? I don't experience fun and enjoyment clouding my mind. It is possible to experience fun/enjoyment/excitemtn AND still be aware of other aspects of the interaction, thereby perceiving it clearly. What do you think?

        Thank you for the compliment! I like to be open minded/open hearted with the exploration of the life adventure. I think I perceive that in you as well?
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          Jan 12 2013: The problem is that at the beginning, we don't usually ask many deep questions, we just talk about our tastes, our jobs, our family, etc...so it's kind of difficult to perceive goodness right away.

          Apart from that, I guess we could do what you say, but the ones with common interests would still get more opportunities to really get to know us, anyway.

          Let's imagine that you briefly met two different people in two different places last week but unfortunately are not having much free time next weekend, which one would you choose to spend your time with? I guess the one that you had more in common with.

          Well, maybe not, but that's what most people would do, in my opinion, which doesn't surprise me, of course. Maybe that person, apart from having a lot in common with you, happens to be a good person as well.

          So, I guess first impressions matter, and these are sometimes based on small talk!.
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        Jan 12 2013: Luis,
        Are you by any chance talking about a romantic relationship? Or the possibility of a romantic relationship? I listen to my heart, and spend time with the people I choose at any given time...perhaps the ones I have more in common with.....makes sense doesn't it?

        I totally agree...first impressions are important, and most relationships (any kind) start out with small talk. In my perception, we can "feel" the flow of conversation and attraction...or not.....for any type of relationship.
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          Jan 12 2013: Hi again, I was just talking about interactions in general, but a romantic relationship would also apply here. In which case, "beauty" should also be thrown into the conversation, another mind-clouding factor :)

          It seems natural to feel attracted to those who we have more in common with, of course. It makes perfect sense. I'm just stating that we might be missing out on the chance of meeting good people who think and act differently to us, which is a shame.
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        Jan 12 2013: Hi again Luis,
        You are finding LOTS of reasons to "cloud" the thought process...LOL:>)

        We don't have to "miss" anything......IF......we are open to ALL people and ALL interactions:>)
        I give myself the gift of being open to all people and all situations....I don't want to miss a thing in this earth life adventure....it is a choice in any given moment my friend:>)
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          Jan 12 2013: And that's truly wonderful, really! Unfortunately, not everyone thinks like you do.

          Anyhow, I guess every "cloud" has a silver lining :-D
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        Jan 12 2013: Yes indeed...every cloud has a silver lining....do you know that song? My mom taught it to me when I was a wee little lass:>)

        Look for the silver lining
        Whenever clouds appear in the blue
        Remember somewhwere, the sun is shining,
        And so the right thing, to do, is make it shine for you
        A heart full of joy an gladness will always banish sadness and strife
        So always look for the silver lining, and try to find the sunny side of life.

        Being honest, polite, respectful, open minded/open hearted can contribute to our silver lining:>)
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    Jan 7 2013: i think the definition of honest is quite clear. however, the definition of polite is culture dependent. so you need to tell which version of polite we are talking about.

    without further oversophistication, i would go with no, according to the widespread definition of polite, it is not possible. but it only shows to me that being polite is in fact wrong. or defined in a wrong way.
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    Jan 7 2013: In general I think you can be honest and polite. One trick might be to state your opinion but make it clear that it's your opinion, that you don't necessarily think it's absolute truth, and you might be willing to change your opinion. Another trick is to stay oriented toward the other person, keep asking them what they think about what you're saying so you can see where they're at.
  • Jan 7 2013: No It's just the way life is.