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The Beauty of Brutal Honesty


The Beauty of Brutal Honesty

Shelli Baltman shares Fiona Stevenson’s article from the archives that explores the value of brutal honesty in both professional and personal life. 

The Idea Suite’s President and Founding Partner Fiona Stevenson makes the case for brutal honesty:

Let’s make this the year of brutal honesty in our personal and professional lives!

Flashback to a decade ago. We were a group of 20-something Canadians who had spent the past couple of years together as ex-pats in Europe. We’d gathered for a reunion over the Christmas holidays, and were happily reminiscing about off-piste adventures when someone made a provocative suggestion: “Let’s make this the year of brutal honesty!” As we started to play around with the idea, our enthusiasm grew, likely inspired by the far more direct style of communication we’d witnessed while living in Europe. Imagine the freedom of being able to declare our every need and desire for an entire year – without filters! 

Within minutes, and in virtually all of our interactions with each other over the next year, gone was the indirect language, subtle hinting or slight passive aggressiveness that so often slips into (and has become an accepted reality of) modern social interaction. It was incredibly energizing to be able to unabashedly claim that last piece of pizza, to remind someone of an unpaid debt, or to provide genuine, unfiltered advice – all without fear of ruffling feathers or suffering serious social consequences. Embracing direct communication allowed us to consistently achieve a depth of conversation – and a level of intimacy – that can often be missing in even our closest relationships.

But as our ex-pat assignments came to an end and we each began new adventures in various parts of the globe, it didn’t take long for our old habits to return. The fact is that even with the purest intentions and the gentlest approach, you can’t run around being brutally honest in a world where a culture of indirectness (often masked as ‘politeness’) prevails – you end up looking like a bull in a china shop! A brutally honest approach ultimately only works when there’s an agreement among a group of people to embrace it.


Key points include:

  • Honesty as a brutal tool
  • Increasing potential
  • Leadership

Read the full article, The Case for Brutal Honesty: A New Approach to Business and Relationships, on