Honesty vs Diplomacy
July 2, 2012 2:55 PM Subscribe
How do you balance being honest and being diplomatic in a way that works best for everyone involved?
posted by thrasher to human relations (35 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I've almost always been diplomatic and gone with the flow of what others want, especially if they're trying to do something nice for me. I end up doing things I really don't want to do or don't like, but people think I do, so it happens often.
For example: my Dad and I have a rather superficial relationship. We have very little in common, didn't get along well when I was growing up, don't see eye to eye on many issues, and don't particularly like each other's partners. So when we spend time together - which is only maybe once a month, even though we live in the same town - it's a bit of a chore for both of us. We do love each other though, and both think it's worthwhile to make the minimal effort (this is all unspoken, there's never really been a direct conversation about this).
I've mostly given up telling him what I really think on most things, as it usually weirds him out even further and widens the divide between us. But it also means he doesn't really know me as well as he should.
Yesterday we got together, and he suggested we go to a microbrewery tasting room (where all that was on offer was beer, no food, no other drinks, etc). And hey, it was on him! But... I don't like beer much at all. Never have. This is something he should know but doesn't. I was reluctant to go but didn't say so, hoping that if I ordered the sampler, one of the five samples would be somewhat palatable to me. None of them were. As a matter of fact, they were all gross. (He thought they were great, it's a well known local brewery that he likes a lot.)
I couldn't hide my reaction, and for the first time I was completely truthful when he asked what I thought. Normally I would've said something like, "maybe I'll like one of the others better." This time I said they all tasted awful and bitter and smelled like dirty, moldy laundry. He laughed, kind of shocked, and sarcastically said "I'm sure they'd love to hear your feedback." He also said "I think you really just don't like beer at all." I clarified that that was not entirely true, but close enough. The rest of the visit was awkward and strained.
I suppose it's a good thing that chances are my true opinion will actually stick with him this time, and maybe we can avoid beer together in the future. But I felt bad because he thought he was doing something nice and all I did was complain, and it gave him another reason to find me weird and unlikable and difficult to spend time with. It felt like the lifelong gap between us had just widened, over a couple beers.
My taste or lackthereof for beer is a pretty inconsequential thing. But the honesty vs diplomacy thing is a recurring issue in matters both important and not, with a number of important people in my life. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or to alienate myself. But I also want to stand up for myself and for people to know me for who I really am and what I really think. I've been accused of caring too much what other people think, and perhaps that's true.
Insight, examples and advice welcome.