Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Best Feature, Worst Feature

My worst fault is also my best feature.
I’m blunt. Downright tactless. I don’t care. Oh, I’ve tried to be sensitive to the feelings of others, but I can’t seem to get it right.

Thing is, I prefer to have my bad news told to me outright. I have an honest belief that everyone should feel this way.
It annoys me to have anything broken to me gently. I think that’s difficult for those who have to tell me bad news because they’re probably still processing it themselves.

Fine, I get that. I really do.

What annoys me is they already know it, and, no matter how gently they try to bring it across, it doesn’t change anything. Bad is bad. I say get it out and let’s deal with it.

It’s always irked me. I was born this way. The depth and degree it bothered me became apparent in the early 1980s when a cousin was diagnosed with liver cancer and my parents and sister heard about it first.

My dad said something about sad news about the cousin.
“Okay, what?” I asked.
“It’s not good.”
“Okay, what is it?
“It’s not good. It’s not good”
“Yes. We’ve established that. What is it?”
My sister piped up. “He’s got two months.”

This conversation seemed interminable. It was no more than 30 seconds, if that. It seemed like five minutes.
Instead of being guided into a mind-frame to accept the news, I wanted to scream: “Will you just tell me already!”
I contained myself and they were finally able to tell me.

Yes, it was difficult for them and no one likes to be the bearer of bad news. But please, if you ever have to tell me anything, just blurt it out.

That’s what I do. I did it when the editor of the newspaper I’d worked for dropped dead back in March.
I had to tell some former co-workers about it. One heard it by phone, another by email. What possible purpose does it serve to tie up their time when they’re going to learn about it anyway?

My tactlessness and blunt words have occasionally gotten me into trouble. More than two decades ago I reviewed a local amateur theatre group’s production and it was bad. Some audience members walked out at the first scene change.

They really did an awful job and I said so in print. My co-workers backed me on this and I received some support from the community.
I was also stopped on the street on occasion and roundly told off including being called various slang terms for body parts that I don’t own.

That’s okay. Comes with the job. Live by the word, die by the word.

I suppose this puts me somewhere between refreshingly honest and insensitive, mannerless lout. But I am that I am and I’m unlikely to change.

Opinions? Anyone else out there like this?
If you must hear bad news, how do you want it?


Crabby McSlacker said...

I'm sort of in the middle on the "getting bad news" question. I don't want to play a guessing game, but I do appreciate an introductory warning. If it's really bad, like a death, maybe even two sentences: I've got bad news. (pause) I'm really sorry to tell you this...

This lets me know the bad news isn't something like "We couldn't get dinner reservations at 6:30 like we wanted, they only had 7:00."

But if anyone takes more than two sentences to get to the point, then they're not doing me a favor.

I tend to be a medium-blunt sort myself when delivering bad news. Fortunately, its not something I've had to do often.

Dawn said...

Yep - I guess I fall into the medium blunt category myself. Once I know that it's real bad news, then I want to know right this minute. You're not doing me a favour by waffling on for five minutes.

But I see reviewing something as slightly different. This has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I am currently going through the review process myself! (Please be gentle with me!) In the situation of your theatre group, I think I would have tried to find something positive to say - or was there nothing positive at all! - as well as the "you suck" news.

Anonymous said...

It could be because we are related, but I am with you in the bad news department - just tell me already! Of course, by the time I got to my Dr. last May, I had already figured out what he was going to tell me - they don't call you to come in if it is good news! I can't believe it has been a year!One of the things I have to be greatful for I have hair again!
Great pics Leah, sounds like you had a great trip!

isabella mori said...

yes, i'm totally in the "TELL ME!!!" department. one of the more difficult things that happened in my life was when my father died in another country and i hadn't even known how bad it was because nobody wanted to say "the c word". you mean he had cancer?

having grown up in germany, i found this whole way of skirting the issue which is considered polite here in canada quite difficult to adjust to. strangely, it confuses things even more when i deliberately frame things carefully, not because i want to be polite/inoffensive but simply because i feel honestly tentative about something (because, to my dismay, i have realized that i don't own the truth :)

language is such a strange thing, ey?

Leah J. Utas said...

Isabella, I'm glad you stopped by.
That must have been very difficult for you having to learn about your father's death without even knowing the extent of the illness.
That's why I prefer plain talk. Just spill it and let's get on with it.