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Tell me what you really think

It took me a while, but I can finally understand what people see in Donald Trump. Sure, he’s as arrogant as they come and makes some pretty outrageous statements. But he says what he thinks – he’s unfiltered – and that’s a refreshing change from the ultra-scripted and on-point politicians we’re used to. We have no idea what they really think, and this unknown scares us more than the stuff Trump is spewing. It’s almost as if straight talk is such a relief, such an admirable quality, that we don’t care too much about content. At least we know where Trump stands, and this invites trust.

Now don’t get me wrong, I in no way think Trump would make a good president. While unbridled candor may be appealing, it isn’t a good quality for a president, who needs to be diplomatic and avoid ruffling foreign feathers. Wars have started over such faux pas. Even domestically, presidents are expected to practice a certain decorum. I’m reminded of the time Ronald Regan told a reporter to shut up during a televised press conference. It was shocking to behold, and I’m sure even more so for the hapless reporter.

But Trump’s candidacy got me thinking about how much most of us have to stifle our thoughts. Few people, unless they’re billionaires, can get away with saying what they really think – at least not if they want to hold down a job or have close relationships. So what do we do instead? Talk about people behind their backs, a rampant and shameful activity that probably few of us can claim to be innocent of. Is this any better than what Trump does? At least he says things to people’s faces.

I had to write reviews recently on the people I supervise, some of whom needed to hear some hard things. How blunt should I be? Would I be doing anyone any favors by couching my criticism in soft rhetoric, or should I not mince words? On one of my own past reviews I was told that I was sometimes too outspoken, and that, while I was usually right, I often didn’t raise my concerns in the best way (i.e., I was not diplomatic enough). I had a touch of Trump in me. Having run my own business for so many years, I could get away with considerable candor since I answered to no one. It took a long time to tame that freedom in a hierarchical workplace, and I haven’t given it up entirely. Sure, it has held me back, but I have to live with myself. We could all use a touch of Trump’s bluntness if we want to sleep at night. It gets things off our chest, and, when we’re the object of someone else’s candor, it’s probably something we need to hear in order to grow.


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