How To Tell Your Mate The Truth – Honesty vs. Just Plain Mean

Posted by: Shel 8 Comments

            ‘Brutal’ and ‘honesty’ don’t have to go together. Being truthful should not be synonymous with being mean. With that in mind, howSay this do we answer those difficult questions from our spouses? The questions on topics that you know your mate is sensitive about? And yet the questions call for, and your spouse deserves, honest answers.

            Speaking truth with kindness can lift your mate up instead of squash their spirit. Following are five examples of those  . . . well, touchy questions. For each, there are two responses. The first one might come readily to your lips. Although truthful, it’s also Just Plain Mean (JPM). The second – while no less honest — is A Kinder Alternative (AKA).

1.      Do these pants make my butt look big?

JPM:  Not if you’re standing next to an elephant.


AKA:  They’re not as flattering as the (insert something mate owns) that you wore last week.

2.       Does my losing my hair bother you?

JPM:  You didn’t lose it – it’s in the shower clogging up the drain.


AKA:  Baby, we’re both going to change. The only thing that won’t change is our   love for each other. (Sure, it’s a little sappy, but I promise you it’s the better answer)

3.      (Asked by the spouse learning to cook who has served three tasteless meals in a row) What would you like me to fix for dinner tonight?

JPM: Cardboard would be a flavorful change of pace.


AKA: Hey – you cooked the last three times. Let me put something together for us.(Offering to pick up a favorite to-go meal is also an acceptable alternative.)

4.       (Asked by a spouse who smells sour after a long day at work) How about a hug?

JPM: How about losing the skunk in your pocket, stinkwad?


AKA:  I was just about to jump in the shower – how about joining me? (This alternative may have additional fringe benefits.)

5.       (Asked by a mate sensitive about the friction between spouse and a dear (albeit crass) friend) Mind if Chris comes over for a couple of hours tonight?

JPM: Aren’t you afraid if you keep hanging around with that jackass you’re going to turn into one, Eeyore?


AKA: How about I give you and Chris some pal time and I’ll run over to (anywhere you can think of) for a while.


            When asked a question by your mate on a topic you know they are sensitive about, squelch the desire to zip off a ‘witty’ remark that, although honest, is also just plain mean. Respond with a kinder alternative. Give a true answer – the one that benefits your mate and your relationship.

Have a suggestion for a JPM to avoid or an AKA to use in its stead? Share with us in the comment section below.

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  • I love this, Shel! Sometimes it’s best not to be brutally honest. I can’t give any AKAs because I can’t stop laughing at your examples! 🙂

    • Shel Harrington

      Thanks, Jill! I may be projecting a bit on this one – others may not struggle as much as I do to wait a moment for an AKA to take over the urge to be “witty” with a JPM!

  • Diane

    Some very good advice! Enjoyed it.

    • Shel Harrington

      Thanks, Diane – I appreciate you taking the time to comment!

  • This week I asked my husband “have I been bitey lately?” after a long pause . . . he replied “Is there a good way for me to answer that?” which gave me all the information I needed to apologize and work on myself. Thanks for the humorous and awareness raising post!

    • Shel Harrington

      The pause itself can be an articulate sentence! I’m giving your husband AKA props for not giving the first answer that probably popped in his head!

  • Valuable (and hilarious) info, Shel. Sometimes it’s diffficult to come up with that AKA on the spur of the moment, so thanks for some suggestions. I also might add that it’s better to wait until the question is actually asked than to just volunteer the information.

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