Candor and Courtesy


Is being diplomatic and tactful better than being straightforward? My mother often scolds me for being straightforward, as I can’t be dishonest and pretend to smile or love someone when I am actually angry with them. Don’t you think that is dishonest?

But I cool down fast and be normal.

Is that likely to create problems with my future husband and in-laws as my mother says? How do I become more gentle and at the same time not submit to wrongs? I have lost few men in the past because of being straightforward.

—Suman Banrjee, India


Dear Suman,

This is an excellent question and I can think of no more excellent answer than to quote Sri Yukteswar (guru of Paramhansa Yogananda):

“Straightforwardness without civility is like a surgeon’s knife, effective but unpleasant. Candor with courtesy is helpful and admirable.”

Notice that he does not suggest that one should not be candid — merely that one should learn to temper candor with courtesy. Diplomacy does not require dishonesty. Tact does not require that you pretend to feel in a way that you do not.

Candor with courtesy requires that you take a moment of reflection before you speak. Try to communicate what you think and feel so that the other person may be open to hearing your honest thoughts without offense.

It takes practice and care to learn, but, if you do, I think you will find that your relationships will become more satisfying and sweet.

Warm regards,
Puru (Joseph) Selbie