Monday, February 8, 2010

Politeness & Bluntness

Two of my loyal readers wrote to me today, asking me why haven't I been posting over the last couple of days. To be quite honest, I wasn't in the mood to write. Besides, I reckoned that since the whole of Malaysia has been engrossed in Mohd Saiful Bukhari's anus over the last week, no one would notice a few days' break on my part.

A different friend wrote me an email in response to my email to him earlier, and he raised something about my having the "guts to be vocal." He said he admired me for that. He said most people (especially Asians) are brought up to be polite rather than honest.

It occurred to me that he is not the first person who told me that. And so this gives me an excuse to tell a bit of my story.

Some people have criticized me for my bluntness when giving my opinions. I have also made "impolite" comments in other blogs. Since there are a number of people who've told me the same thing, then I suppose there must be some truth in it.

I have been criticized, for example, because of the way I expressed myself against my own father with his peculiarities. I have also been criticized for raising some things I dislike about my mother. Sometimes the truth sucks, and many of us would rather sweep the rubbish under the carpet. The truth hurts too. And the hardest thing to do is to draw the limits when balancing between politeness and bluntness.

One of my nieces stole my money when she was still a young girl. It was just a small amount, but I was concerned about her anyway. For a while, I was debating with myself whether to tell her mother about this problem. My sister had high expectation of her daughter, and perhaps because of parental instinct, she's very sensitive whenever any of us gave negative comments about her children. Most parents believe that they know their children the most, you see, and it is not often easy to shake that belief.

Then later on when I was talking with another sister, I realised that the rest in my family had known of the stealing habit for some time. When I asked them why didn't they tell her mother about it, they said that they pity the mother—that she would become very disappointed. Besides, there was that risk of her mother not believing us. I took a while but eventually told my sister about her daughter. She was indeed devastated, but I had the feeling that she did not believe me.

Years later, when my niece was all grown up and was in college, she was caught stealing the cellphone of her room mate. In fact, that was not the first time she did it. Several cellphones went missing until someone actually followed her secretly to the shop where she tried to sell the phone. Her parents pleaded with the dean for leniency. She was eventually suspended from school for a couple of weeks.

And now I see something "not quite right" in my 5-year-old nephew. I am not a child specialist, but I do read a bit about children. I see some peculiar signs in this boy—those which suggest autism. I happen to know that early intervention can help in autistic children. But as I said, I am not a child specialist. I am usually very blunt with my siblings. Hell, I am blunt with most people! Yet I don't really know how to tell my sister about her son.

I can of course be nice and polite and leave things as there are. That would probably save my sister the heartache of knowing that her son has a problem, although I honestly hope that I am wrong. Like I said, sometimes the truth hurts.

And then the other option is that I just tell her point blank and ask her to bring her son to see a specialist as soon as possible. One possible outcome is that the child is found to be normal after all and my sister may think that I'm just wasting her time. The other possible outcome is that my suspicion is correct and the specialist can help to remedy the problem a bit.

From my experience talking to people, I found that most of them prefer me to be truthful rather than polite. So don't tell them that they look skinny if actually I think they're obese. Don't say that they look good with short hair, when actually they look awful. Nevertheless, most of them can't handle the truth. When told the truth, they become hurt and offended.

So let's hear it from you all. If you have a choice between the two, would you prefer me to be polite or blunt?


18 comments:

Wrestling With Religion said...

There are some situations where telling the truth hurts someone, without the possibility of doing any good. Like telling someone they are ugly for no reason. But when it can potentially do good, I say go for it. It's then just a matter of choosing how best to deliver it.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Well, in our case, from our previous discussions (and arguments), I think it is good we tell/told the truth and were blunt concerning racial beliefs, ideas about religion, and society.. I have seen it as a way for both of us to teach and learn from each other, even if we don't agree...

As far as family, I do believe in being blunt. I think my Mom drinks too much, and I told her how I feel because I don't think we should have to tiptoe around the people we love. If my husband asks whether a shirt looks good, or a haircut, I tell him the truth. I would hope he does the same for me.
BUT, I do believe the way we say things has a lot to do with how the message is received.

So, my vote is for you to be politely blunt... =)~

teo said...

Agree with Sarah....politely blunt.

Anonymous said...

yeah, i agree. its all in the delivery :)

peter said...

I have not been blogging or commenting much lately. I do find this entry a bit interesting and just got an itch to write something.

Firstly, to Corny, why not trying to write about 'yours'? (refer first para). You might find a fan or two whom might be interested!!


Here's where I find an interesting sentence from the write-up:

From my experience talking to people, I found that most of them prefer me to be truthful rather than polite.

I believe you may have misconstrued the people around you. Or rather not accurately construed. Most would prefer honesty and truthfulness. But being truthful and honest does not need to be impolite. As 'anno' put it, it is the delivery. You can be blunt and yet polite.

And if there is something you need to learn, you need to know when to STOP. An example, I really can't see a reason or even an excuse for you to bring back the issue of HRU's Challenge in Mike's blog recently. That was history - to you , to HRU and to every hunters who were part of it. If anyone has learned a lesson from that, Fine. If no, bringing it up again will IMHO do not good, other than to get on people's nerves.

A second example. You always need to have the last say - without fail. If you don't believe me, check out all comments you have made here and wherever that you have posted. You stated your peace, let others did theirs. But you always need to rebut when those views are not the same as yours. You just need to have the last laugh, don't you.??

Well, Corny, this is bluntness without politeness. Haha.. (Bet this will not be the last laugh)

Cornelius said...

Been outstation for inspection. I see this post has attracted quite a number of my readers, huh?

Sarah (WWR),

Thanks for your comment. I'm blunt most of the time, but I doubt that I would actually tell someone that he or she is ugly.

But as I said, sometimes truth hurts. And when someone says something like, "tell me the truth, do I look good in this new dress?" And in your opinion, that dress looks awful, yet you know that it will be painful for your friend if you told her that the dress looks awful. What then? Would you lie to your friend to be polite?

Cornelius said...

Sarah & Teo,

OK, that's a good vote, politely blunt. If only I knew how!... HAHAHA!

Cornelius said...

And thanks to Anonymous friend too. Delivery... I'll bear that in mind. I don't have the confidence that I'll be able to do it, but I will try.

Cornelius said...

Peter!

Been a while since your last comment!

Let's see, you have some interesting questions, my friend. Let me try to answer them:

"You can be blunt and yet polite."

I think I am inclined to agree with this. But I'm not sure if it's always possible to achieve it. When something hurts, it's gonna be hurtful even if it comes from a polite informant. But I suppose the pain is enhanced coming from an impolite informant. So, yes, there is value in politeness. No argument there.

"And if there is something you need to learn, you need to know when to STOP. An example, I really can't see a reason or even an excuse for you to bring back the issue of HRU's Challenge in Mike's blog recently. That was history - to you , to HRU and to every hunters who were part of it. If anyone has learned a lesson from that, Fine. If no, bringing it up again will IMHO do not good, other than to get on people's nerves."

This one I must beg to differ. From my teaching experience many years ago, I've learned that people can relate more when statements or ideas are supported by examples.

But this habit goes beyond my teaching experience. It is also a common habit among many, many professionals.

When lawyers argue their cases, they almost always support them with past decisions or other authorities. So the contract in a supermarket is concluded at the cashier's desk, not at the point when items are taken from the shelves: Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain vs Boots Cash Chemist.

Whenever I make a statement, I almost always try to support that statement with historical facts. In that particular comment you're referring to, I made a statement about the tendency of new CoCs "to over-complicate" the riddles. In order to lend weight on that statement, it was necessary to support it with an example. I found that example in the Hunters Challenge. I quoted that example not for the sake of tarnishing the reputation of the CoC, but merely to drive home my point. I have cited many examples in most of my discussions before, and in some cases I even quoted my own questions as negative examples. If you don't believe me, check out my other posts or comments and you will see that I almost always cite authorities or examples when I comment, not only in this particular comment you're referring to.

Having said that, however, I have now been told that I had misunderstood the true intentions of the CoC for Hunters Challenge. Apparently, the Hunters Challenge was not mainly intended to encourage new hunters. I'm sure there's a very good reason why I thought so, but well, if I am wrong, then I must sincerely apologise to the HRU.

Yes, I agree with you that sometimes I do get on people's nerves. I try not to if I can help it.

I will post this first and then attend to your other comments.

Cornelius said...

"You always need to have the last say - without fail. If you don't believe me, check out all comments you have made here and wherever that you have posted. You stated your peace, let others did theirs."

Yes and no. Yes, I always try my best to argue my case, citing examples and authorities etc in the process, and if I can convince the other party to agree with me, then that is great! But there have been times when I do eventually agree with the opponent too. One example I can remember now from the top of my head is on the issue of a hypothetical answer for a question from my own hunt. My intended answer was DORS, whereas my opponent(s) argued for the acceptability of either "D" or "S" independently. Go find that post again, and see if I gave in in the end. For your further information, at least one of those who debated against me sent me a text message, apologizing for disagreeing with me in my blog. But I quickly told that person not to be silly. I was not offended at all.

"But you always need to rebut when those views are not the same as yours. You just need to have the last laugh, don't you.??"

Yes, if I disagree with your views, then you can expect me to say so without reservations. But I'm not sure where you got that part about the "need to have the last laugh". I don't moderate comments from my readers. I can very easily block all comments which are against mine. But I allow ALL comments from my readers, whether they agree or disagree with me. I don't deal with my opponents in such a cheap way. So yes, I would love to win my debates, and I would love to have to last say. But I never disallow what my opponents have to say.

I have stated my peace, now I'm allowing others theirs. Fair enough?

Socrates29 said...

My only comment is the title of your blog - "Because I say so.....".

Maybe you can consider modifying it a bit so that it doesn't sound so authoritative.

Just my 2 cent piece.
Socrates29

Cornelius said...

Haha! What's wrong with the name of this blog, Socrates29? I love that name because that is sooooo like ME, don't you think?

However, as I said above, although I would love others to agree with me, I always try my best to justify my arguments. I'm aware that some people may disagree anyway, but hey, that's life, this is a free country. I can't force ALL my readers to agree with me. Well, OK, at least I'd like to think that this is a free country!

Besides, I don't believe that by changing the name of this blog, I'll be able to change the way people think about me anyway. So I guess I'll try to live with it. I know I'm never gonna make everyone love me (smile.)

Sarah Elizabeth said...

I like Socrates comment about your blog title.. LOL! Kinda funny,,, =)~

Tekko said...

Don't bow to pressure. don't change yr style or blog title. It's what keep me coming back to read even though I don't know you

Cornelius said...

Sarah,

The title can sound quite imposing, I guess. Well, at least I have admitted openly that I am a stubborn man several times. Hehehe.

Cornelius said...

Tekko,

Thanks for your support, my friend. And no, it's not a pressure at all. And of course even if it is, I have no intention to change my style and blog title, that's for sure!

I ended this post with:

"If you have a choice between the two, would you prefer me to be polite or blunt?"

I said IF my readers had a choice. But I didn't say that they actually had those choices... HAHAHA!

Amran Bin Aliamat said...

Over the years, I have learned that we ought to tell the truth even it is bitter. But how we say it make the different!

Cornelius said...

Yes, Amran, I can readily agree with that advice. If only I knew how to do it though!... hehehe. But I will keep trying!