So you don’t get the impression that I am annoyed by everyone, with this post I begin a series about some people who I really like, and why.
Some of you will recognize yourselves in these posts. If you do not, it in no way means that I don’t like you. Believe me, if you know me and I do NOT like you, I have probably already made that fairly clear to you. I’m just picking some traits that really draw me to people, and for each trait there may be one specific person who embodies that trait more to me than anyone else.
So here is the first installment… Honest People.
Epitomized by a Captain in the fire department where I served. I shall call him Captain M. He will know who he is, as will anyone who reads this and knows him.
Captain M says what he thinks. Loudly and often. Behind your back, to your face, in a public forum. The guy’s opinionated and blunt. No politically correct euphemisms for disagreeing like “I’m sorry, I hear what you are saying but I still feel strongly that-” No, he’s more a “You’ve got to be kidding me, that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard” kind of guy.
I find it refreshing. It’s entirely possible that other people do not.
I think there are two specific aspects of Captain M’s, er, how shall I say it… “filter-free” nature that I really respect.
One is that he doesn’t seem to hold a grudge about arguments with people that he likes (maybe with people he doesn’t like – but don’t we all?). If Captain M is your friend, you can have a pretty major disagreement with him, get loud and swear at each other, and the next day you can work together on something just fine. There are a lot of people in this world who are not that flexible – after an argument, things can be awkward for days or weeks, and there has to be some sort of formal reconciliation to get back to where you were. Maybe that doesn’t seem to be the case with Captain M because he gets it all out of his system right at the start, and doesn’t hold things back to stew about later.
Another important part of Captain M’s honesty is that he is also honest about himself. When he makes a mistake, he admits it. I’ve worked with or lived with a lot of people in my life who try to cover up mistakes they make. I hate that, particularly in a coworker – I have no patience with people who think that covering up an error is more important than fixing it. Well, good ol’ Captain M… one day at a training burn, the water pump on our brush rig stopped working and we had to drive away from the fire, back to the staging area. He opened up the pump’s fuel cap, and without hesitation or trying to speak quietly or pass the blame off on anyone else, he just said it – “Well, looks like I didn’t fill the tank. How stupid.” I admired that (well, not that he didn’t gas up the rig, but you know what I mean).
Honesty is important to me in a friend, partner, or coworker for a lot of reasons:
It makes it far less likely that small mistakes will snowball into bigger ones.
It reduces the need to “read between the lines” of overly polite, stilted conversation.
It means I don’t have to stress later, worrying that I may have done something wrong – if I had, he hor she would have yelled at me right away.
And maybe most of all – it frees me to be comfortable about being honest in return. I usually am honest, but a lot of people don’t seem to appreciate it. How often have I totally freaked someone out by simply saying “I like you. We should be friends.” Or made someone mad by saying “I don’t think that’s true.” Or seen someone get offended and huffy when I clearly said “No, I don’t want to do that” instead of making up an excuse about being too busy. Or ended a date with “I’m not interested in doing this again.” Since things like that get such negative feedback, I sometimes do try to censor my speech – and when I meet a truly honest and open person, I feel my soul just go “Ahhh, I can relax and be myself in the company of this person.”
Of course, honesty alone won’t make up for everything. There are plenty of radically honest people out there whom I can’t stand. An asshole is an asshole, honest or not – although given my choice of assholes, I’d obviously prefer the former.