Brutal Honesty is bad?

“Brutal honesty is bad.”

This seems to be a very common belief among people that I’ve come across recently and I thought it might be fun to look at.

I’d like to look at it from a linguistic standpoint (in order to examine the tools that are being used to communicate). And when I do that, I see that the disagreement is caused by use of the adjective.

Let’s test a few sentences:

  • Gold is more valuable than dirt. Okay.
  • Water is more valuable than food. Huh?
    Because you die quicker without water. Oh okay.
  • Honesty is more valuable than lies. Okay.

All straightforward and easy to agree to. But now let’s add some adjectives.

We agreed honesty is preferable to lies. Is brutal honesty preferable to gentle lies? Does the adjective change the noun? Is brutal honesty still honest? If yes, then the original statement about honesty must still be true, right?

Let’s switch. How about honest brutality?

Honest brutality vs Dishonest kindness.

In this case, you most likely prefer the kindness (even if it’s dishonest) which proves that sometimes it’s ok to ignore adjectives.

What you really want to say is that kindness is better than brutality. And who would argue? No one!

So, clear your head. Ditch the adjectives.