The Criteria and Limitations
for Being Candid

Candid Conversation

Being candid means being frank and open with another person.  Seeking candor asks that you be free from bias, prejudice or malice.  It requires a scrutiny of what it is that you want to say - an examination of your motives.  

It also asks that you identify the facts about a situation or another person that need to be verbalized.  Clarity and candor go hand in hand.  Otherwise, your approach may be perceived as being ill-intended.  

However, it’s important to remember that the person to whom you are speaking may have a completely different perspective on what the situation is.  He may be in the same position as you —trying to figure out how to have a discussion with you about something that is bothering him.

Guidelines for Being Candid

Being respectfully candid requires employment of the realities of etiquette.  Etiquette is situational, relational, and contextual.

For example, you are married and want to communicate to your spouse how you feel when he speaks to you in a certain way in certain situations.  You will need to give some thought on how to communicate this clearly and such that your tone does not convey hostility.

Though you may be angry and feel the blame lies solely with your spouse, he is still your spouse.  Communicating in a kind, etiquette-ful manner will help keep your conversation respectful.

Additional guidelines to use when initiating a candid conversation are:

  • Organize your thoughts so you don’t become tongue-tied.
  • Have examples of the points you want to make.
  • Be clear that you are not laying blame – you are simply bringing attention to a situation.
  • Avoid using generalizations like “You always . . .” and “You never . . .”
  • Remember: clarity is key.

In the spirit of seeking to understand, you can then approach the other person.  Of course, you may catch him at a bad time, but you have done the best you can in offering an assessment of the situation.  Your aim is always for positive outcomes!

The Boundaries of Candor

“Honesty in social life is often used as a cover for rudeness.  But there is quite a difference in being candid in what you’re talking about, and in people voicing their insulting opinions in the name of honesty.” 

~ Judith Martin

When emotions run amok, or you feel yourself losing your patience with someone, there can be an urge to interrupt or criticize.  It may be tempting to want to blurt out your thoughts and frustrations and then excuse yourself with “I’m just trying to be honest.”   Which isn’t true. 

You might not realize that you are being rude and that you haven’t examined your motives.  Any tinge of wanting to get even or act out in anger will not end well. 

Perhaps the other person could use some good feedback on what he is doing and how he is coming across.  Perhaps he is developing some negative habits and you care enough to help him turn this around.  But you must be clear with yourself about how best to approach this for it to be helpful to him. 

So, learning to be candid is an important habit to develop in our efforts to respect our own integrity. 

It’s important that you welcome the process going the other way as well.  You want others to be candid with you.  We grow and become available for new relational opportunities when we are open to people being candid with us. 

The more we can do to encourage others to practice being candid with us, the more deeply they might come to trust us.  Thomas Jefferson is quoted as having said, “Truth between candid minds can never do harm.” 

We aren’t perfect, but we’re working to develop habits that are outwardly expressive of the call to do the right thing, to rectify a wrong, and to turn things for the better.  Indeed, we are works in progress.

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