The golden mean

I bought this yesterday, what do you think?

Do you like my new haircut?

I heard you were at my presentation, did you enjoy it?

Honesty is a wonderful thing, but if you have ever had to answer the questions above (or any of their variations) you know that honesty has its dark side. Actually, two.

On one side, there’s exaggeration. It is a lie, often inflated. And it is used to gain some kind of advantage, whether it is a conflict to avoid, the need to be accepted, or even full-blown deception. Here is what exaggeration might look like.

I bought this yesterday, what do you think? It is gorgeous!

Do you like my new haircut? You look wonderful, wow!

I heard you were at my presentation, did you enjoy it? Absolutely, you have amazing skills!

On the other side, there’s disrespect. It is a truth, often inflated. And it is used to just let out whatever it is we feel inside in that particular moment, with no regard for those around us, their state of mind, their feelings, their circumstances. Here is what disrespect might look like.

I bought this yesterday, what do you think? It really sucks, you could have spared the money!

Do you like my new haircut? No, it stresses everything that is wrong with your face.

I heard you were at my presentation, did you enjoy it? I slept for most of the time, quite boring.

Honesty is about striking the balance between exaggeration and disrespect. And if you can’t do that, you will always struggle to communicate effectively: exaggeration taints the message, disrespect upsets the receiver. One way or the other, change will not happen.

Virtue is a mean between two vices, one of excess and one of deficiency.

Aristotle

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