It seems fairly obvious that trust is a pretty foundational aspect of any relationship. I don’t think many people disagree with me on that. It’s interesting though how few people are willing to accept what trust entails.
For example, the more you trust someone, the more their comments or suggestions are meaningful to you. A random stranger has little impact if they let you know how they feel about you. However, if it’s coming from a good friend it means so much more. Because a friends advice is more meaningful it can necessarily be more harsh or blunt. “You’ve got to do something with that shirt!” is a comment that you will take very differently depending on whether a good friend says it or some clerk at a store says it. Why does a friend say something that could possibly be taken as an offense? Because they care about you and they have enough “relationship capital” invested in you that they realize that they can say things without terminating their relationship. Once you think about it, you might likely agree with their “blunt” statement.
This is really the only way to grow and develop outside of introspection (which tends to justify your current condition whatever it is).
But so many people don’t seem to understand this. People cloud the idea of honesty (which is really what I’m talking about) with the idea of giving no offense. “It’s better if I don’t say anything” is a common line that people of this breed will say to avoid being honest. Obviously there’s a time and place for everything and there are certainly inopportune times to be honest. However, I think that in any good relationship (that of friends or family) that one should be honest. A friend is a worthless one who can’t build you up. Even worse, a friend who can’t approach you with what they perceive as a fault or problem will likely grow apart from you since they feel disconnected. They have to “watch what they say” around you. Eventually there develops a list of what can be said and what can’t. Conversations denegrate to a point of dancing around these issues without stepping on them. If you slip, you’ve just triggered a landmine and the relationship will likely terminate.
Sadly, being dishonest is largely what manners are about. You don’t tell fat people they’re fat. You don’t tell someone that they’re dressed in a style befitting a 1970’s disco star. Manners are not what keeps friendships together though — they are merely a social construct to avoid conflict (and they work well for that). You may not like your boss, but you are stuck working for him or her so you likely desire to avoid conflict at the expense of having a friendship. Friendships are all about conflict though and without conflict you again are stuck with never growing or expanding or improving.
I think the general rule should be:
With those that aren’t friends but with whom you must spend time or engage in activities with, you should be polite. Telling your boss that he’s a fatty might be true, [NB: My boss is NOT a fatty. He’s a wonderful human being] but it serves no purpose to try to create a conflict when you have no real personal relationship with him.
With those that are family or friends (and I use that term to refer to close friends) you should be honest! A friend who cannot take suggestions or comments regarding their personal life must not trust you or perhaps is too short-sighted to see your motivation. Such a person is probably not (or not yet) in your group of friends.
There’s obviously a point at which people transition from group 1 to group 2 and during this time an ill-advised word can ruin a perfectly good start at a relationship. Trust must be established before you can seek to actually improve (and be improved by) your friends. Trust is shown by care and compassion and obvious evidence that the other party is interested not merely in themselves but in your best interest.
Some people seem incapable of trust and I really do think that for the most part, these people are doomed to walk the world without any real friends. If someone is not interested in growing (even if it hurts) they can avoid it quite successfully by never allowing those around them to make a difference in their lives.