My daughter is in her early 20's. She has proven to be "overly honest" time and again. She has pretty much remained at an even level since around 10 years old, though, in terms of this issue. While this personality trait has been a joy in many regards and has allowed extremely high levels of trust and even a loving relationship that I think would not be possible otherwise, it has caused a lot of social pain within and without the family.

It has just now become something that I feel like I must address as it is causing a lot of relationship issues that reach outside of our personal sphere of influence. She has expressed her desire to change if she could understand what to change and feels that no one has been able to explain to her, with enough precision, the problem so that she can actually pursue a change and still feels others should be the ones doing the changing.

The tendency to think that she's always right is compounded by the fact that she very nearly is always correct. This then has caused her to approach things in a slightly less than socially acceptable way, especially with those who are (perhaps overly) sensitive. Usually she is cognizant enough to not be outright mean, but tone has been her particular downfall. It is easily perceived by the recipient of her suggestions that she is harsh, angry, uncaring, insensitive, or otherwise harbors negative will in her (generally accurate) assessment.

While this amazingly insightful input well surpasses her years and personal experiences, it has gotten to the point where correctness and insight no longer matter since it is breaking down and poisoning relationships both within and without of the family.

I wanted to get a little more foundation on my approach to the situation, so I suggested that she take a personality test. I was little surprised when she came back with an INTJ personality (even though women of this personality type are especially rare, forming just 0.8% of the population). Interestingly she was about at a 1 on the T aspect and so she could have nearly fallen into the F category there and thus is quite balanced between these two aspects in her personality.

I had a very lengthy (elevated) dialogue recently with her wherein we reached quite the impasse. The only thing that I could suggest for her was to try to build an allegorical comparison of how her communication is more like a person who is standing in front of someone and shouting at them to "look over there at this thing!" vs standing beside the person with her arm around them while saying, "look over there at that thing." I tried to explain that it is not about changing her message, but rather to simply change the way the message is conveyed and / or its frame of reference.

Unfortunately she expects (more than several) other people in our family, and out of our family, to try to change to match her communicative needs vs attempting to understand how to modify her own output and, possibly, expectations. I fear that this is about to cause an overwhelming emotional explosion or implosion for her.

Our debate ended with my suggesting that she read "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. This was countered with a severe questioning of how a book can change the situation and cause others to change their minds and negative reactionary response to her input to them. I could only really tell her that it will do so by helping her to understand other people's communicative wants / needs on a different level that will help her to change her approach. This was not very palatable for her and she has little to no confidence that this can help.

What suggestions (especially in the realm of self help) might you have regarding dealing with such a particular situation in terms of helping a loved one, like this, to understand their own personal need to change in order to effectively participate in familial and societal relationships?

I am, obviously, particularly interested in actionable material that would help one to change their personal frame of reference and help them to understand how to properly frame their output for others.

Are there any other books or training material (video, audio, etc.) that you think could help that go above and beyond Dale Carnegie's book?

I am desperate to help her to move through this and I know that if she can simply discover the solution herself by consuming proper information and insight (vs my trying to ram it down her throat), she'll be absolutely one of the most remarkable people with whom to associate for others.


2 Answers 2


Her problem was very much my problem when I was younger and it still comes out a bit today when I am not careful. Carnegie's book was a fundamental assist for me - I studied it, memorized much of it, and lived it. Coupling that knowledge with some anaylsis of humans helped me reach a much more balanced view.

I had become so bent on humans not wanting to accept the truth meerly because their emotional perception of my delivery clouded their judgement that for years I had a saying on my desktop background: The ability to see the truth does not imply the obligation to share it. It was hard to see why their emotions should be allowed to play such a controlling force -- I never cared who was right, only what was right and it is a fallacy to judge information based on the speaker or delivery instead of the content of the message. If they could not get over that, of what import was it to me? It was just as easy to watch them fail as they accepted their emotions before truth.

The truth, though, is that people such as ourselves do care or else we would not try to help. I believe it is this fact which you've hit on and want to help facilitate the delivery in a way which she will be comfortable with and those hearing will be comfortable with.

Some of the following tips/ideas/concepts are necessarily derived from Carnegie's book, but coupled with my own take on them.

  • Success is not as much a factor of what you do, but how you do it. The challenge is not in getting the "what", but in mastering the "how".
  • Humans are emotional beings -- even those of us who disclaim such limitation. Communication which ignores this fact is most often doomed to fail in its intended aim.
  • When telling someone something they do not know or believed an alternative to be correct, the delivery can change them from wanting to defend themselves to accepting the idea.

    Carnegie shares an important quote here, "Men must be taught as if you taught them not. Things unknown proposed as things forgot." Trite, yes. Powerful, absolutely. What do we care if the person receiving the message thinks it is their own? Our purpose is to help, not to gain glorification for being right (which would actually expose an error of ego).

  • The truth if unaccepted serves zero or one purpose: it is totally ignored or the one speaking it loses standing due to delivery. It is better to say nothing than to say the right thing in the wrong way.
  • Even the best master of "what" and "how" will sometimes be cast aside due to the emotional attachments some have.
  • We must never get attached to the information we share. People will make up their own damn minds and may have to suffer the consequences accordingly... it is what it is.
  • The information, experience, wisdom, and advice we have gained were not random, but the result of much work, study, and analysis. But the appeal to authority in the argument will almost never help. If we turn our attention back to those from whom we have gained our knowledge and study how they delivered it... the words they chose, the venues & mediums, and their timing... then we can better grasp how we can be more effective at sharing that information.
  • If the truth cannot be told so that it is heard, then it will not be believed. (A torque on a quote from Terence McKenna, ;) )

If you share with her this data, it will hopefully stimulate deeper thought. For myself it was necessary to challenge the premise that the data should suffice; that the receptiveness of the recipient was irrelevant; that I needed to meld the two. On further analysis it became apparent that speaking to /dev/null would be more useful if I did not develop my skills in the realm of delivery.

Be patient, though. Us types tend to take awhile to fully analyze, digest, and act upon the information we receive -- and that's part of why we become so confident when it is reiterated in various forms to help other.

  • 2
    This is fantastic Jeremy. You've said so many things that I have attempted to articulate, but from the right side of the fence. I really appreciate your experiential input here on this as I think it will really help to get to the core. She actually does want to effect change and to have successful relationships, and she is an absolutely amazing person - just a rare 1-in-a-billion type of person, but this has just been such a hurdle for us. It is so wonderful to have something that I knew was intuitively right corroborated with such personal supporting evidence. Many thanks.
    – ylluminate
    Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 19:40

Until 22 or 24 years old I was also acting as if truth was the most important thing in life, and the way I was acting it also cost me friendships. As a results, I got depressed, had to go to psychoanalysis to feel better, and suddently I got very happy and social. I have learned this the hard way, but I think the following might help your child:

-Visit some hostels and spend some nights there. This may sound weird, but it was after meeting the hostels way of life (full of people backpacking around the world for very low precises) that my life had suddently a meaning... I just wanted to be around those people, and even today, 6 years after that, I use the inspiration from this environment to foster new friendships, and it ALWAYS work. People there are so cheerful, open, communicative and friendly, I bet your daugher will automatically get inspired by them.

-Make a theather course, specially improvisation. On this environment, you can EXPERIMENT any behaviour you want, and nobody will judge you for that. It means you will learn a lot quick quickly, and on this environment everything is also fun, and people are quite open minded, so I bet it could be helpful. It was helpful for me because of the lack of punishment for bad behaviour and the constant support from the teachers to just have fun and enjoy people.

-Take part in some group activites that she enjoys, like some sports, painting, learning how to cook, etc... She will be around people who are doing a pleasant task together, and at some point she might just realize that sometimes creating a good atmosphere brings more to life than seeking the truth about every thing

-Introduce her to CouchSurfing. This is a group of people who helps people travelling around the world by providing free housing in exchange of people being nice back to you. This also improved my life a lot, and I bet it would help your kid too.

-Let her talk to international people. It is also a very rewarding experience, and it always something which makes me remember how good it is to be around people than are pleasant.

Those 5 tips above are the ones which keeps me happy and wanting to have good relationships with people. Maybe some of them are usefu for your kid!

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