Have you ever experienced the sinking feeling when someone you dated started off with “I’m going to be brutally frank with you”? Or have you seen the panic in someone’s eyes when you dashed off that line?
It is a common misconception that telling someone ‘the truth’ is helpful to them and a virtue in you. In Sanskrit, there is a verse which starts with ‘Satyam bruyat, priyam bruyat’. This means that we should always tell the truth, but only that truth which others like to hear. Let us examine the validity of this.
There are people whose profession entails a lot of delivering the bad news. For instance, a doctor has to tell many persons that they have stage four cancer. A manager has to tell people that they are fired. A teacher has to discuss the bad performance of her students. Parents often have to correct bad behavior in children. However this need not be a routine part of a dating relationship between two adults.
Dating itself involves the risk of rejection. When two people are dating, they are checking out the other person in terms of compatibility. At any stage, one or both t he people may find that the other person is not really suitable for them. The situation thus provides opportunities to be kind or mean.
The best bet here would be to follow the dictum we quoted earlier. The Bard put it in another way when he said ‘Discretion is the better part of valour’. You can be brave and sensitive at the same time. You need not recklessly blurt out everything that appears to be true to your mind.
First of all, know that it is just your version of the truth. And this version may very well be a trick played by your own mind. It might often be a projection or rationalization that serves your purposes, but may be harmful to the psychological well being of the other.
If you wish to criticize someone, please think about it before you venture out. You have to be especially alert of the comments you make in intimate moments. Inhibitions are generally down during such moments, and you may very well blurt out something that you regret later.
Before you bring it out in the open, ask the following questions.
Is it really something to do with yourself that you are passing over to the other person? For instance, are you suspicious by nature and now blaming the other for being suspicious?
What will be the effect of what you say on the other person? Are you sure that it is going to do him/ her some good?
Can the other person do something about the matter? Consider that there are many irreversibles in every life, like one’s age, the family one is born into and so on.
Which is more important to you- being in the relationship or being right?
Are you comparing this person with a past partner?
Are you sure there are no control issues involved?
Is this the best time, place and way to say this? Is there a possibility that the issue will take care of itself without you having to volunteer criticism?
Are you prone to find fault with everyone?
Do your words come from your ego or from your heart?
Also consider the circumstances, patterns and the likelihood of something recurring.
For instance, you are on your third or fourth outing with this guy, and you are dancing with him. He is sweating heavily and smelling awful. Is it worth telling him this in as many words? Yes, you could, and hurt his ego. But consider that it is steamy hot inside the hall, and they are playing fast music, and to top it all the room is pretty crowded. Wouldn’t it be kinder to ignore it for the moment? Of course you can remind him to put on some deodorant on the next outing, with a sweet ‘remember how hot it was the last time we went out’.
Remember that we have to date many imperfect people to find a partner. And we are imperfect too. Look for someone who is good enough for you. Insisting on perfection can lead only to disappointment for us and hurt to others. Also keep in mind that the other person is not for you to ‘work on’, but to ‘work with’ to create laughter and love.
When you find that someone is not suitable for you, exit gracefully. You don’t have to go back and tell what was good and what was bad with the other person. If you had a relationship with him/her for sometime, it is obvious that there were things you liked about him/her. You don’t have to say that you wish to remain friends with him/her. Both your affirmations and your criticism can only hurt the other for the time.
The same holds true for us too. We don’t have to believe or accept what the other person says about us.
Remember that sinking feeling described at the start, and pray for kindness and respect. Pray that you are able to preserve your dignity and the dignity of the people you love or leave.