As a child I used to believe that you should always tell the truth, no matter how hurtful it might be. For example, if someone asked me if they should be a singer and I thought that they didn’t have a good voice, I would tell them “No, I didn’t think you should be a singer because you don’t have a good voice,” and subsequently crush their dreams of stardom. In my defense, I didn’t know any better because my family had always used this bluntness with me so I thought that everyone else was used to it too.

Somewhere along the way I realized that my brutal honesty was the main reason I didn’t have many friends. I learned that most people don’t enjoy being around twits that point out their insecurities. So, I had to reconstruct my beliefs around my brutal honesty – after all, it was one of the biggest assets of my personality at the time. The question at the center of this reconstruction that I struggled with was, “What is the difference between being polite and lying to someone?”

Not much. If you truly believe something that could be hurtful to another person, and they ask you about it, and you give them a sugar-coated answer, then you’re lying to them. But I thought it was odd that people say they don’t like to be lied to and that “honesty is always the best policy,” but then if you tell them a hurtful truth, they get offended and might lash out at you.

I mulled over this pretty hypocritical mindset and after a while I realized that you just have to find a balance between truth and lies. I learned that if something can be fixed in five minutes or less, tell the truth about it to the person you’re with. If something can’t be fixed in five minutes, you might want to rethink telling that person the blunt truth – they could feel bad about it or obsess over it. A little sugar coating never hurt anybody. However, it you truly feel the need to tell that person the truth, be nice about it – there’s no point in being rude to someone over something they can’t easily fix.

I’m still struggling a bit with finding this balance – sometimes I’ll slip up and tell someone a hard truth in a not-so-nice way without meaning to. However, I know that I just need to give myself more time to grow and get used to walking the line. If you struggle with this too, don’t worry. Everyone eventually figures this out. If not, know that people will always come to you if they want an honest opinion. It can be an endearing quality if used well. The important thing is to be as kind as you can.