Friday, June 14, 2013

Petey's dating manual: Tell it like it is

"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."

My last post was about asking direct questions for the sake of clear communication. Direct questions aren't much use unless the answers to them are given honestly and openly. The reasoning for honesty and openness is largely the same as the reasoning for direct questions – and the reasons we shy away from honesty and openness are also mostly the same.

There are many reasons to be honest (and, as I discussed in this post, honesty includes openness). In fact, there are many reasons for honesty that are independently sufficient to make it a moral imperative for all of us. In this post, I will discuss only one of them: honesty respects the autonomy of other people.

Although our lives interconnect, every person makes decisions independently of all other people; in other words, my decisions are my own just as your decisions are your own. But my decisions and yours cannot be wiser than the information we have to guide them. When we give people incomplete, insufficient, or inaccurate information, we do so in an attempt to influence their actions. Moral obligations aside, any relationship that relies on such manipulation is inherently flimsy. The truth always comes out eventually and our lies (or our omissions) have a strong tendency to make things worse than they would have been had we been honest.

So show your confidence in and respect for others. Be honest. Be clear. Be tactful. Trust people to respond maturely when you tell them the truth.

I've written about related topics before. For another discussion on clarity, see this post. For a discussion of communication generally, see this post.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Well stated. I am working on a paper with a bunch of undergraduate students on the disclosure of concealable stigmas (such as mental illness, past or current addictions, etc.) in dating relationships. In the course of that I have been exposed to a term I really like, "relational ethics" namely, that in order to respect the person with whom I would have a relationship I cannot withhold any "relationally pertinent" information (i.e. information that would influence your decision as to whether or not to have a relationship with me). As a therapist I have seen the devastating effects of people who enter a marriage and choose to keep such information to themselves, thinking that now they are married all of it will sort itself out. The truth is that we shortchange ourselves and those who would have relationships with us when we hold back. Now granted there is an appropriate time and place for such discussions, but it sure as heck isn't after the marriage, in fact I would say it isn't even after the engagment, but rather should occur before the other person makes decisions on engagement.