I was always blunt. As a child it was considered cute, as a teenager very rude and as an adult it sometimes caused rupture in relationships. And then I decided to become a therapist and now I get paid to be blunt. So why is bluntness seen as a negative quality? According to google, blunt means being uncompromisingly forthright. The word ‘uncompromisingly’ is what I want to focus on as it captures the essence of why I see being blunt as an asset and not a liability. Saying what we think, feel or believe in should be uncompromisingly expressed to others and yet most of us shy away from it in the name of politeness and diplomacy.

The scale of communication ranges from being aggressive, to assertive, to passive in an explicit or implicit manner. Some people are aggressive or passive explicitly through their language and actions whereas others might appear polite in their overtly communication but the implicit message would be aggressive or even passive aggressive. There are very few people who are comfortable to be assertive as they see it as being blunt.

Being assertive means to be able to stand up for what you believe in and to be able to express it in a calm and positive way without being aggressive or passive; to be able to be congruent, where what you believe in your heart you are able to authentically communicate to others.

Yet many of us either stay passive which is seen as having ‘lihaz’ (consideration) and not speaking up when they need to. Such people think they are being polite in the face of a conflict where even if they have something valid to say, they choose to stay quiet. But later, this holding back comes out in either talking to others in the form of backbiting or the ‘khamoshi’ (silence) takes the form of a psychosomatic ailment. I have worked with clients who developed chronic pains like in shoulders for feeling the stress of keeping mum even when they had a lot to say. Or a man who started having arm pain as he would clench his fist in frustration yet was unable to express himself even though he was right every time there was conflict.

On the other hand, some people are aggressive and in their angry stance; even if what they want to say holds weight they are not received well by others. This is why aggressive communication is as much of a failure as passiveness as both are not authentic expressions. When someone is angry and in a hyper-aroused state, it brings the other person to the same state as well. It will emotionally trigger the other person too and when emotional brains are talking, the rational, reasonable mind stops working.

So that comes to being assertive while communicating with others which many people see as being blunt. There is a thin line being between politely assertive and rudely blunt. In the former, communication is done using ‘I’ statements which means one takes ownership of one’s thoughts and feelings, whereas in the latter ‘you’ statements are made, which are rude and puts the other person on the defensive.

An example would be where last week I decided to express to a close friend how I feel when she never returns my calls and after being at the receiving end of this behaviour I said to her, “I feel disrespected and hurt when you don’t return my calls or even inform why you are unable to.” An aggressive statement would have been, “you always do this to me and never return my calls and you don’t seem to care at all about me.” All these ‘you’ statements are like an attack and would put anyone on the defensive and even if something true is being communicated, it won’t be received well. Being passive would mean continuing to accept such behaviour while harbouring resentment for my friend, which sooner or later would come out in either a break in the relationship or some other way.

So have the courage to say what you want. If it comes from a genuine place within you and expressed only to communicate to the other person how you are impacted by them or expressed to communicate your view point about something or feelings, then freely take ownership of this assertive stance and don’t shy away from it. It’s not bluntness, but your right to never compromise on what you think, feel or believe in!