Last week I sent a couple of photos of myself to a friend. I was deciding between two pair of glasses frames and I wanted a second opinion. (She’s well-versed in the color and style principles I blog about.) She wrote back: “I can see the dark circles under your eyes in those first frames; maybe get something that covers them up.”
I burst out laughing. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the feedback. But I was taken aback by her candor. This particular friend is from the deep south and her response was not typical of that from my genteel friends in that part of the country. They tend to couch their fashion advice – and their opinions in general – in more circumspect, sweeter terms. It’s culturally bred into their behavior from an early age. (My meditation teacher, Maharishi, used to call it speaking the “sweet truth” – finding the good and pointing that out.)
Do we just want the “sweet” truth…or the whole truth?
Now, sweet truth is certainly uplifting, but not always helpful. In fashion, as with friendships, dating relationships and in business, we benefit when people are honest with us from the start.
Case in point: Years ago I was hunting around for a distributor for a seniors’ exercise video I had produced. I contacted media reps on both the East and West Coast. The Hollywood guy gave me lots of praise, suggested my video was a great idea and kept me hanging onto hope, essentially wasting my time for weeks by never committing one way or another. The guy in New York was curt and abrupt: “doesn’t work for us – we’re not interested,” and then added, “good luck to you. I hope you get it sold.” I could feel his sincerity through the phone line.
Personally, I’m one of those people who love an honest opinion and people who straight-talk. I know exactly where I stand with them and know that they’ll tell me when I have spinach in my teeth or toilet paper hanging off my shoe.
Where do you go for an honest opinion?
But we can’t always expect it from those close to us. Some potential advisors simply shudder when we ask them to give us an honest opinion about how we look. I’m talking about our male counterparts. They often freeze, imagining multiple scenarios – none with good outcomes – that could result from an honest answer. The late radio personality Tom Magliozzi used to advise men to respond to, “Honey does this _____ make my ____ look fat?” by just giving a Neanderthal-like grunt.
If, even at our age, you’re still feeling too sensitive to take frank opinions about what looks good on you from friends and loved ones, it’s better to seek out a professional for a wardrobe consultation. They usually are pretty good at saying what needs to be said but keeping it light and up lifting. The better ones understand the difference between candor and heaping on shame or abuse (an unfortunate epidemic in social media and politics lately.)
Still, there’s a lot to be said for blunt truth-tellers. We know we can trust them. We know they’re not going to sabotage us or laugh at us while we flounder with half-truths. And truth is a pretty great foundation for any relationship.
As John Lennon said, “Being honest may not get you lots of friends. But it will get you the right ones.”