Do You Owe Everyone Open, Honest Communication?

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“I think there are levels to it,” she says, “people who are really close to me, I feel like I need to communicate with them openly and honestly. But strangers? Acquaintances? Nah. Why bother?”

I nod. “I know what you mean. I’ve been in the situation so many times — where someone I’ll literally never see again is making huge assumptions about me and voicing them. And really, I’ll mostly try to outlast the situation. Like if they’re sitting next to me on the city bus and I have no clue who they are, but they’re going on and on about stuff, and I don’t want to talk, I just try to get through the situation without there being a big kerfuffle. I don’t owe them conversation, really, so I don’t owe them the truth.”

“Exactly,” she says. “And there are so many levels in between that and… well, my husband — who I really need to be open and honest with.”

I nod.

“Although even there, maybe I need a second before I can communicate something. Maybe it’s a bad time or I don’t know how to phrase my thoughts properly,” she says. “That doesn’t make me shady, even though I’m technically holding something back until I can get my bearings.”

“Yeah,” I say. “I do know some people who wouldn’t like that. Hell, I’ve dated a few. Folks who get really upset if you don’t text back right away with exactly what they need to hear.”

“Like that one woman you dated,” my friend offers.

“Right,” I say. “Even though I worked long hours and had a monster commute and, y’know, slept.”

She laughs.

“Not that this expectation of hers or that urgency makes her a bad person or even universally unreasonable,” I say. “It just makes her a poor fit for me.”

“And me,” my friend says.

“I suppose it helps that neither of us expect instant responses from other people,” I say. “That would feel a bit stranger to me.”

“Was she good at responding instantly herself?” my friend asks.

“Well, no,” I reply.

My friend smiles.

“Anyway,” I continue, “I think you’re on to something here. I do know people who think that you owe everyone open, honest communication no matter who they are.”

“See,” my friend says, “to me, that seems like an awful lot of work.”

Featured Image: CC BY – Alan Levine