My friend Amol told me a few months ago, “I think you have put on too much weight. You should get on a diet and fitness regimen.” I disagreed, telling him that I was quite okay, maybe a few pounds extra, but I was fit. I also said that I did not have time for a fitness programme. I hated him for being impolite and politically incorrect, and for commenting on my girth. I sulked, refused to call him or take his calls. We drifted apart.

After a few months, during a routine check-up I was alarmed when I stood on the weighing scale. It showed that I was a good 10kg heavier than I had assumed myself to be. I was forced to acknowledge that my trousers were not fitting of late and I was getting tired quickly. Amol’s words came back to me, and I joined the nearest gym. Within a few months I shed the excess pounds, feeling lighter and fitter. I called Amol, apologised for behaving like an idiot and thanked him for pointing out my problem. It also got me thinking that apart from him, none of my friends, relatives or colleagues had pointed out this issue to me. When I asked some of them, they said that yes, they felt that I had become overweight—but why say something and make me feel bad?

Silence is not always golden

Most of us go through life not speaking the truth, not being frank with our near and dear ones. Diplomacy may be required in certain relationships, I agree. But to avoid speaking the truth to your loved ones is as bad as lying. People in close relationships normally expect one another to be honest, and to give unbiased feedback. If we are always diplomatic, always avoiding ruffling feathers, always wanting peace and harmony at any cost, it is likely that we are leading a life that is far removed from the reality of things: a false life. Common sense tells us that nothing false can bring us long lasting happiness or peace.

It is better to be candid—it pays better dividends than compared to being diplomatic and avoiding speaking the truth. Sometimes one has to administer a bitter pill, so that eventually, a lot of good comes out of it.

Why we don’t tell the truth

Why do we shy away from speaking the truth? It has been my observation that most of us have the habit of saying one thing, while having something different on our minds. Our general tendency is to say nice things to others. Why hurt others? Why make them sad or unhappy? Why point out their shortcomings or deficiencies to them? Is it not better to keep quiet in order to maintain harmonious relationships? While this tendency is fine as far as certain distant relationships or acquaintances are concerned, it is generally not a good idea to avoid speaking the truth to near and dear ones. Your spouse, children, parents, close friends—these people need your honest feedback. But the problem is that we want to be in their good books. We don’t want to start an argument with them, or have a disagreement with them. Even if they are doing something grossly wrong, we want to avoid commenting on it, because our true comments are likely to strain or, in some extreme cases, even destroy the relationship.

Granted, our truth is likely to disrupt harmony and lead to conflict. But what is the use of a relationship in which one cannot even speak the truth? If couples cannot tell each other the truth, if parents can’t tell their child the truth [and vice versa], the entire relationship is weak.

The truth matters

A few years ago, a lady known to us was going through a difficult time with her husband. She was seriously considering leaving him. Most of her close friends and relatives endorsed her views. When I told her that such difficult times arose in every relationship and that it is better to forgive and forget and carry on with the marriage, she didn’t like it. She was hurt that I did not see her agony and distress and she walked away in a huff.

Later, she sat down and thought about the pros and cons of leaving her husband. Good sense prevailed and she decided to continue with her marriage. She did have to make adjustments and compromises, and had to accept many things she did not want to, but eventually things settled down. Her husband too was grateful that his wife did not leave him and changed his attitude.

Many years have passed since and both husband and wife are truly grateful for the piece of honest advice I gave them. Today, they trust my feedback and opinion. Had I been diplomatic, or said what the lady wanted to hear, things would have turned out quite differently, and I’m sure both of them would have been unhappy. I took a risk in telling her the truth, I lost her friendship for some time, but eventually, the truth is what sorted things out for everyone.

But silence is better than lying

It is my opinion that if you don’t want to speak the truth, then it is better not to say anything, rather than stating a false opinion, just to make the other person happy. Remember, no one can really make another person happy permanently. Your lies might make the other person happy briefly, but the truth has a nasty habit of surfacing, sooner than later. That day, you will lose more than you have gained. The best thing is to be honest, the next best—to be silent. Behaving as if you really love somebody when you actually dislike him or what he is doing is the worst injustice that you could do, not only to the other person, but also to yourself. So always be candid.

Adapted with permission from Why Not Use Some Common Sense?, by PV Vaidyanathan, published by Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd.

This was first published in the June 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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