Can You “Tell It How It Is”
Without Being Rude?

Couple Talking Outdoors

We all appreciate someone who can tell it how it is because we associate this characteristic with honesty.  But when that honesty feels brutal, or is blunt enough to strike a chord, we may wish those words had been sugar-coated.

Finding the balance between rudeness and the ability to tell it how it is doesn’t come naturally to most people.  But there are methods for achieving it.

A Rudeness Avoidance Method

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a personal rudeness detector?  Something more reliable than the angel and devil on our shoulder whispering their conflicting advice.
Devil: “Tell her that she’s making it hard for everyone by going on and on with platitudes.” Angel: “Assure her that you are hearing her and thinks she has a good heart.”

Another, and more reliable, method of knowing what to say is to simply question yourself.  When in doubt as to whether a plain straightforward honesty is the better way, ask yourself, “Would my honesty be experienced as brutally frank?” or “What would it be like to hear those words from me at this moment?”  

Those of us who are passionate about being honest can sometimes let our enthusiasm filter out common and kind sense.  This is where we need to call in our own restraint police! 

Conflicting emotions and drives are faced by each of us every day.  And as we move about interacting with people on a daily basis, we want to stay in good balance with ourselves and others.  Reminding yourself that caring about how your remarks will be taken by another person is a hallmark of etiquette.

What Others Hear When You Tell It How It Is

Most of us have our rudeness detectors on when in the company of others.  People who don’t seem to care how they are coming off or appreciate the time you are giving can cause the alarm to sound.  When people excuse themselves with a dismissing, “Well, sorry, but I’m just direct,” you may also hear an alarm.

When you tell it how it is in a blunt manner, even someone who knows you well may be taken aback.  It can feel like dodging bullets when your words fly out without a filter.

Straightforwardness is a goal worthy of respect and being straightforward while remaining considerate of another person’s feelings, keeps us from “beating around the bush,” in saying what needs to be said.  

We all know that no matter who you talk to, it’s important to be respectful.  We are taught this from a young age, but there may be times when we forget what it actually means.  On the spot, we are vulnerable to thinking we can choose to be blunt because we don’t like how we are being treated.  

Bottom line, being rude and disrespectful means not considering how one’s words can affect another person.  The etiquette guideline of asking, “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” can help keep us out of rude territory.  It’s also an excellent guidepost to find before we tell it how it is.


This article marks the 350th blog article posted on the Candace Smith Etiquette website.  We are most grateful for your readership and look forward to writing many more articles that help all of us live more etiquette-ful lives!

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