When it comes to the benefits of being direct, let me be blunt. I believe that when it comes to relationships — be they work related or personal — it pays to tell it to someone straight instead of beating around the bush. When you’re routinely honest with someone, your word becomes more reliable; you can be approached without fears of being duplicitous.
Nevertheless, there is a stigma associated with being direct that has caused me to more carefully pursue a balance between being blunt and remaining quiet.
The words associated with being assertive are overwhelmingly negative. Sure, one can be described as honest or direct, but they can also be called arrogant, overconfident, and insistent. When describing women in particular, these descriptions can often take the form of bossy or bitchy.
In personal life, navigating the fine line between being assertive and being an asshole comes with its fair share of challenges. I was always very careful about what I said when I was younger, which most likely resulted in me giving an insincere or evasive impression. As such, I’ve attempted to break those internal walls down during my time at university; in the process, I’ve often overstepped my boundaries, speaking brusquely in situations that may have required more subtlety.
It’s about navigating the fine line between being assertive and being an asshole.
Nevertheless, putting those blunt feelings out there can also lead to refreshment and growth as a person. When I bottle up my direct and honest opinions, I often find my emotions build to a point where conversing productively is difficult. Instead of resolving an issue at its inception by discussing the problem, choosing to remain silent can lead to confusion and feelings of betrayal. The other person may then ask whether this is the way you’ve been feeling all along.
There are certain situations when speaking directly can be a strong asset. At The Peak, for example, we constantly make stylistic decisions that require us to separate personal feelings from the decision-making process. I often become very invested in my own work, which causes me to want to sympathize or console someone when I have to critique their content in turn. However, I’ve found that this can quickly lead to more emotions becoming embroiled in a process that is purely professional, resulting in hurt feelings.
By speaking to the point without commiserating, a decision is seen as a calculated determination based on the merits of the work, rather than a judgment on someone’s skills or intellect. In the future, this allows people to trust that your decisions are based on merit rather than petty emotional responses.
As with all things, it’s important to realize that being direct may not be appropriate in all circumstances. Sometimes we don’t need to hear a blunt assessment of the situation, but rather need a person who will just sit and listen.
Social interactions aren’t black and white — as much as I’d like them to be — and being direct isn’t a panacea for traversing conversations. Nevertheless, being honest in a constructive manner, rather than speaking rudely as the stereotype might suggest, may be a good path to take when navigating the shades of grey in between.