Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Please, don’t be nice, be yourself



I feel uncomfortable when someone calls me nice. It’s not as if I have something against being likeable. It’s just that the connotations associated with this tag have altered drastically over the last few years. This sobriquet is mostly reserved for someone who agrees with our perception we have of our own fabulousness. So, someone who rarely disagrees with us and has only good things to say is considered nice.

Truth be told, niceness these days has rarely anything to do with the individual and his/her character or the lack of it. It has more to do with how he/she makes us feel about ourselves.

The same holds true for us. In our desire to be liked, we often refrain from saying what we feel. So, when a friend shares her latest literary masterpiece that reads more like the scribbling of a six year old, or invites us to her brand new home that’s decorated like the house of horrors, we’d rather gush politely than blurt out that we’ve yet to see anything worse. Of course not. That’s harsh and we don’t want to come across as judgmental, do we?

I understand that the idea is to not hurt someone else's feelings even if we didn't agree with them. So we’ll continue praising Sneha Aunt’s snazzy new hairdo even if it makes her look like Paresh Rawal and insist that our tone-deaf cousin sings just like Lata Mangeshkar.

We want to be nice so that others are nice to us in return.


Precisely why we are overtly sweet with people we barely know, especially our friends on Facebook. We become more generous with our compliments and ‘heartfelt’ emotions. After all, the more we like, the more others will like us, in turn making us feel good about ourselves.

Even if we feel slighted by someone, rather than approaching him/her directly, we are happy posting generic updates, cribbing about insensitivity and meanness of the world at large.

Sadly, we reserve our true selves, read our worst side, only for those closest to us, snapping at them or throwing tantrums without the slightest provocation. I feel the ideal way of gauging someone’s true character is to observe how they behave with people they don’t need to impress. A lady who treats her household help as her slave just because she’s paying her a salary deserves contempt. The chap in his gleaming BMW, who’d rather resort to fist cuffs than admit he was in the wrong, is far from educated despite his made in USA qualifications.

On the other hand we have people who do not shy of telling Aunty that her new hairdo makes her look like a Poodle or that your masterpiece is a piece of trash. But rather than calling them nice, we are quick to dismiss them as rude, opinionated or even jealous of our success.

It’s as if speaking the truth has become the greatest sin of all.

Sadly, many of us would rather revel in false praises than pay heed to well-meaning criticism. It’s easier to be stung by censure and deceive ourselves into believing that it’s just evil machinations of a jealous mind.

I think the way we react to praise and criticism defines us. Believe in your greatness and rest assured you’ll be swimming in the sea of mediocrity for the rest of your life.
Only if we learn to sift out well-meaning concern, accept it gracefully and work on it to become better, are we truly deserving of praise.  

We can only learn from our mistakes only if we accept that they are mistakes, right?

Precisely why we need to surround ourselves with those who are ready to tell you the truth no matter how much it hurts. Your worst critic is perhaps your best friend.

So, if you are someone who really cares for me, please don’t be nice, be yourself with me. I may like you less but I’ll certainly respect you more. 





http://www.indiblogger.in/indipost.php?post=348281






91 comments:

  1. Brilliant post purba.... i couldnt agree with you more... I wrote a little one on the same topic, a few days ago.... do give my post a read too...

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  2. When one is not genuine, it shows. You can't fake it all the time. In today's time, extra sugar results in diabetes. No wonder Sooraj Barjatya is not in sync with changing times.
    This reminds me of a friend who tells me, I have lost weight each time we meet. Even when the scale tells me otherwise. :)

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    Replies
    1. No wonder every woman who has ever uploaded her pic on Facebook is gorgeous, lovely, so pretty, irrespective of how she looks :p

      Delete
  3. Purba, I am standing up and clapping for you just now. Did you enter my head and pen this one because this is exactly what I have been feeling of late. Except for one point, I would rather not put up something hurtful publicly. I prefer giving private feedback especially when it is critical. For me praise is public; censure is private! Alas, most people are so full of themselves they can't for a moment accept that they can have flaws. I loved this one truly!

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    1. II was convinced people will hate me for writing such an abrasive, in your face write-up. But then I didn't want to sugarcoat it. Pleasantly surprised at the reaction it has got so far.

      Delete
  4. I agree with you.
    I have always thought that not just WHAT you say but HOW you say it matters a lot too. Being honest and right need not mean being rude. One of the best ways to get criticism across is to not sugar-coat it, but neither to wrap it in thorns. If you want the other to understand you, that is. If you only want to show yourself as right and him wrong, it doesn't matter anyway!
    The most important point you make is - "Sadly, we reserve our true selves, read our worst side, only for those closest to us, snapping at them or throwing tantrums without the slightest provocation." and about the snide FB updates/dynamics. The more I stay away from FB lobbies and hobbies the more my family smiles a peaceful Buddha smile. :D
    What a wise post. Need of the hour, really!

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    1. Just be matter of fact while conveying what you feel. A lot of people I know use praise/criticism as a tool to hurt or win over people. Why does it have to be that way?

      On FB, I prefer being the observer. But some days it gets too much :/

      Delete
  5. There is something between being nice and being too honest. That something is what we are looking for.

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    1. There's nothing called being too honest. It all depends on how the person puts it across and whether you react or respond to it.

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  6. Loved it Purba :-)
    This made my morning :-)

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  7. I think this compliment thing on FB is overdone. You have the most horrible selfies getting likes and gushing compliments. Everyone is tripping on their toes to give the most flattering comments on some puerile thought. I just refrain from commenting. I'd rather not say anything than speak my mind on such stuff - or lie.

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    1. Like you I prefer silence. But I have seen seemingly sane people go berserk on FB.

      Attention is addictive.

      Delete
  8. Lovely last line, and I think it is this important difference between 'being liked' and 'being respected' that is the genesis of this whole 'being nice to people' thingie, don't you think?

    Most of us seem to settle down for being someone who is liked by a lot of people rather than being respected by them, and that's why we put on this facade of being nice to whatever they say or do.

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    1. You obviously can't please them all, Might as well be yourself and be respected by a few.

      Delete
  9. I think we all have a set of people from whom we will accept criticism .. Could be your sister, a very close friend or your spouse .. If we are not in that set of people for someone, I feel it is better to refrain from being direct with them .. We need not pour out false praises but we can always remain neutral .. That is what I usually do ..
    Not being brutally honest does not mean that we are being a fake to win someone's good opinion.. It is more out of consideration for others .. They will get the criticism they deserve from their loved ones anyway .. If I am not that loved one, I better smile politely and refrain from any comments at all ! For it will not serve its purpose anyway .. Just my opinion, of course ..
    And it is very true that how we behave with those we do not need to impress really defines us .. It will serve as a yardstick while choosing a life partner I think :)

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    1. I totally agree with you. Consideration is the word.
      Also, it's not always about if I am nice to others than others will be nice to me. I think one cannot fake niceness all the time, one has to be genuinely nice to be accepted as one.
      Moreover, I think one can brutally be honest with few and in specific scenarios only. Well, there is a thing about every body has an opinion like may be some Aunty's hairdo doesn't suit one's tastes/senses , is actually cool for someone else. stuff like to each it's own ...who are we to comment anyway. As mentioned in the comment above one can remain neutral.

      Nidhi

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    2. @ Aarthy - I agree that we are not ready to accept criticism from just anybody. Someone with no literary sense trashing your masterpiece will most probably be asked to get lost. But isn't it up to us to sift out well meaning concern from criticism just for the sake of it?

      Delete
    3. @ Nidhi - I am not advocating meanness and advising my readers to trample on others' feelings. Of course, there's a certain way to convey what we really feel without hurting that persons' sentiments.

      It's hypocrisy that I'm against,

      Delete
  10. Purba, I am going to join Racha and the rest , in standing up and giving you a standing ovation. Very well put and if only, people took a leaf out of your book and became real. Kudos

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    1. *Awkward grin, shuffles her feet and mumbles a thank you*

      Delete
  11. I tell you Purba I'll sell my soul to see a bit of honesty !
    Instead all we see is sycophancy and false praise. And I am so amused by it all! It’s so blatantly apparent they don’t mean any of it. Like Alka says, if it is genuine it will show.
    I have no time and frankly no respect for people who can’t be truthful. If you don’t want to be truthful and hurt the other person by criticism – why don’t you just keep quiet. Why the sugar coated lyrical tributes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When one of my non-blogger friends visited my site, he was surprised that my readers had only complimentary things to say. The thing is that even when one of us doesn't like what has been written, we'd rather leave a neutral comment than tell the person - what were you thinking!

      Delete
  12. So many different connotations to the word but you are right, today it is deliberately used to mean someone who is wishy-washy. Let me see how it feels - nice Purrrrba. That sounds like I'm trying to coax you into not attacking.

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    1. I wish I could be scary in real life!

      Delete
  13. One has to be intellectually mature and broadminded to accept the positive aspects of honest criticisms. Unfortunately, the majority of our near and dear ones around us are not with such mind status (No one would even like to admit this too and would likely turn hostile if you ever mention that they are narrow minded!) But that is a reality and in a society ruled by narrow minded people the best way to exist as socially acceptable is by wearing a mask of dishonesty and play the goody-goody role as nicely as possible! Incidentally, I was about to write a blog on the same topic that I found yours! Thanks any way to be bold enough!

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    1. Isn't it sad that we live our lives according to others? No wonder we blame them for our unhappiness.

      Delete
  14. These days being nice is just a facade I feel...a way to get people to like you...a charade...

    You have written which many dare not agree...
    N for Nauseated-Random Thoughts Naba

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    Replies
    1. I do expect disagreements and I am okay with it :-)

      Delete
  15. Very nice post. But I totally disagree with you on that we don't have to be nice to people. We motivate, encourage, support etc etc by being nice to people. Say if a sportsperson does a mistake during the game, instead of saying "Moron, u r a rotten rat", we say "come on Jack, you can do it" and Jack gets enormously motivated and in the end retires as Jackass. In that sense, I would say being nice and being critical are two different things, sometime you can be critically nice too. I'll stop there as any further I'll become a management guru and will start growing pony tails, counting chickens etc.

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    1. Thank you for making me laugh, Guruji. I am willing to be your daasi for the rest of my life.

      Please start IIGM. The world is waiting for it.

      Delete
  16. Loved it, esp. the last line. Offlate it has become so tough to tell what is true and what is not. FB seems like an alternate life for most, one they keep to please themselves and others.. the true picture is mostly never know. life seems so superficial all of a sudden.

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    1. This obsession for approval has become a disease, making even the so called mature ones behave like six year olds.

      Delete
  17. Well this is what you call 21st century! People are very weak to actually accept their flaws. Good post!

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    Replies
    1. Well, it's time to wake up and smell the coffee.

      Delete
  18. Hoping others would be nice to us because we are nice to them is the greatest folly of all. Others will only be nice as long as it conveniences them. When it doesn't, they will be who they really are, regardless of how nice you were to them.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Become a people pleaser and rest assured no one will ever take your seriously.

      Delete
  19. Punching piece! Living in plastic world and we want to talk plastic too!

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    Replies
    1. That's why we need people who keep us grounded.

      Delete
  20. Its a really nice one Purba. So true, the essence of character is so easily being sidelined in the worldly view!!! So easy to be lost in the process and be a part of the fake realities around.

    Nice article to remind one of the actual reality..

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  21. Dekho, Purba, starting tomorrow, I am going to be brutally honest about everything I say to you.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Is waiting with bated breath :p

      Delete
  22. No one has ever called me NICE :(
    Now I wonder if I should be elated after reading your post. I guess I should :D

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. Ha! Purba! Here we are on opposite sides of the fence :) In principle, I have no disagreement, actually. Criticism builds up the person and a good friend is one who will dish out negative criticism as well.

    My issue are all with the practice of HOW it gets done. The difference between honesty and rudeness is TACT and I do not absolve the critcizing person of the need for tact. HOW could I be a good friend if I do not point out HIS/HER failings? :P As in not wording the criticism properly.

    As for Social media relationships, the issue here is one is neither sure of the goodwill nor of the expertise of the person doing the criticism. All one can identify is the manners - and, by that, I do not mean whether what is said is sugary BUT whether there is any attempt to be polite about it at all.

    In other words, if I tear apart someone's literary masterpiece, can that person understand that my dislike of her output is because she cannot write for nuts or because I hate reading this genre? OR, even, that I love showing off how superior I am OR that I am jealous of her success? It is not so easy to take to your bosom everyone who criticizes you either - I am sure that you have experienced enough of the last kind to know what I say is right.

    SO, yes, I prefer polite people. THAT is the only thing that comes out clearly about the person in Social media. Genuine criticism is great BUT the hassle is to know whether it is genuinely meant and whether it is valid.

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    1. I have the innate talent for taking all criticism to heart. It may come from someone I barely know or someone I respect or someone just trying to show me my place. But a part of me will always wonder if there's an iota of truth in the words that hurt me so much. I agree, when it comes to critique, it becomes tough to be objective. Is it because we take ourselves too seriously?
      Because a person who's confident will be as unaffected by criticism as he is of praise.

      I am all for politeness but not when others take it for granted.

      Delete
  25. I agree with Suresh. You can't tell a mother that her child is ugly. What appears ghastly to you maybe beautiful to them. Constructive criticism helps a person to understand his/her writing much better. What appears as an act of niceness might be a genuine quality of that person. So, I would like a polite tone which states facts rather than rudeness.

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    1. If you can be kind and caring even to those who have hurt you in the past, you are worthy of respect.

      Delete
  26. Not many people call me nice. Only because I speak from the heart. There are times I have to keep my emotions/opinions to myself just to look 'nice'.
    The thing is ... why do we have to be nice or not nice? This whole complementing thing that has started with social networking is ridiculous. Why do we have to like or not like everything! The world was perfectly fine without all these adjectives. Frankly, most of them have lost their value now.

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    1. Exactly, we temper our true selves just to be able to blend in.

      But that someone who accepts you regardless of your flaws, is your true friend.

      Delete
  27. There is a saying in Malayalam that translates to 'if Ur friend is nice you dont need a mirror' . We all are so used to wearing masks everywhere in our desperation for acceptance !

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    1. Jaish, I couldn't agree with you more.

      Delete
  28. The point is the world has become a much more complicated place. If someone is being nice to you, you are not sure whether beacuse you are good enough to deserve niceness from everyone, or is it the innate goodness of the person being nice or is he/she trying to curry favors with you. Similarly is someone is being critical - the same - whether person is nasty grumpy kinds or just trying to pull you down out of personal grudge or jealousy or really giving you feedback for improvement. Again the same dilemma how your actions will be intrepreted by other party - if I put all my effort reading your writings and offering you criticism or praise, only to land up in your bad books, my time would as well have been better spent elsewhere. Wish things were more straightforward.

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    1. I agree, we have become skeptics, refusing to accept anything on its face value, questioning intent even if its a good deed.

      I think to speak the truth, one has to be fearless maybe even foolish and not be afraid of consequence. It's not easy.

      Delete
  29. this was funny post coz most of people who wrote comments on your blog agreeing with you are people who don't even publish comments or they don't even reply when you write truth.so they are being nice to you when their original personality is against this post.there is a guy in this comments section who din't publish my comment and he wrote his next two blog posts with my comment inspiration.THOUGHT THIEVES hahaha...

    i do appreciate this blog post if you have written this whole-heartedly.very few people in this world have acceptance to truth and there are people who will call you impolite if you speak truth in straightforward manner.its all about magnitude of intellect and flawless life you have led to know what's right and wrong.

    most of people in this comments section don't belong to the category you have mentioned and its truth. i hope you will agree with this..

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    1. I cannot comment or judge since I know just your version.

      All I can say is, if you present your point of view sans any bias, I don't see why anyone should have a problem with it. It's all about how you say it.

      Delete
  30. I appreciate the emotion behind this post. And it's a well written attempt.

    Don't think I am saying it just to be "not-nice" but I think you are confusing a few emotions in this. The first one is how people would agree with you just to be nice. In my opinion, you are confusing being courteous with being nice. If I don't like one's work I would rather not say anything or praise him/her in a terse way than to publicly trash him. That's not being nice but being courteous. How I respond to others' undeserving work is also a reflection of my own self as a person.

    Secondly, the idea of "heartfelt" comments or praise on social networking. Yes, it's overdone. But our social network profile is like a snapshot. We always want to see smiling memories, right? Barring politics, religion and other serious discussions, it's a natural instinct to either stay indifferent or praise someone's trip or marriage or convocation. Even in serious talks it's more about criticism than not being nice. I can criticize within the specs of being nice. 2 non-mutual expressions!

    Thirdly, as you say, the true judge of character is the way how we treat who are beneath us. That's re-phrasing Gandhi ji. But I didn't really see the analogy of this with the rest of the post.

    I agree with you that we can improve only after learning from our mistakes. That's constructive criticism. It's like a Wen Diagram, where in one circle I have people who criticize me for my betterment and in the other I have people who praise me regardless. If they cross, the common area would give me my real wellwishers who are mature enough to do both. But if they don't, it's fine too because I need both kind of people in my life!

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    1. Prateek, this is not an exam I'm sitting for, so let's not call it an attempt. It's writing what I feel strongly about.

      I think I've lived long enough to know the difference between courteous and being nice. But I do agree when you say that Facebook is more about making and preserving memories, so why sully it with our unasked for opinions.

      What I'm talking about is hypocrisy, saying things that we don't mean.

      Delete
  31. Good old 'in the face' take it or leave it post. Glad when people call a spade a spade. How we handle praise and criticism define us, but its a no-brainer that criticism is definitely not something people are vying for. Having said that, i would rather say that once the initial haze fades off, it depends on how much of an adult reasoning kicks in and how we then respond to the feedback.

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    Replies
    1. To be honest, take all criticism to heart, especially when it comes from people who do not know me. Maturity is knowing the ones that mean well and working on it.

      Delete
  32. Social media and blogs have confounded the rules of niceness and nastiness. In days and time when being the most popular by whatever means is the norm, this is to be expected. Instead of adult reactions kicking in, we see childishness in the responses to criticism -- with sulking, kicking out or 'únfriending'. Also as reciprocity is the rule rather than the exception, no one wants to be on the wrong side of popular people, lest one loses one's visibility. Having become an occasional blogger and an even more occasional commenter, I have learnt this 'lesson' :D

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    1. I concur with you, Zephyr:)

      Delete
    2. The blogging world thrives on reciprocity. We all know, the day we stop commenting on other blogs, we'll get only a handful of comments on our blog. You are lucky, you have regulars who respect you and your work.

      Delete
  33. Most of us do so more out of resiprocal attitude

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  34. Life is all about likes and liking others. An honest opinion given by a true friend holds far more value than millions of likes on social media. In a bid to keep in step with the trend most of us just carried away. Well being yourself would surely solve this problem, added sugar in any form is a strict NO NO.

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    1. I'm happy that you agree with my not so likeable post :-)

      Delete
  35. A real busy schedule was what held me back from reading this down to earth and hard hitting post which tells the truth! If one knows the truth only then we stand a chance to improve! Kudos Purba, the praise here is with no intent for being nice:)

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    1. Damn it! I have managed to make "nice" the new bad :D

      Delete
  36. No matter how much in the face this write-up is, it is 100 percent true. Mostly we do tend to hide our true selves especially when it is social media. Sometimes it is hard to sift who is truthful and who is not. I think the way you put forward the truth also matters a lot

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    1. I agree, Jas. It's how we put it that makes all the difference.

      Delete
  37. Such a profound thought explained so simply... Totally agree with you!
    Be nice, say what you feel with a bit of concern on hwo you put forth your thoughts...thats what we all should be doing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If being nice means resorting to falsities, we're better off as being ourselves.

      Thanks for reading, Rinaya :-)

      Delete
  38. A good post , this is. But look at you. Giving a sermon on the blog. And when I speak my mind you and be myself call me a sociopath. Hmpf!
    Anyway....personally I am nice to people I know and people who serve or rather help me i.e. maid, cook, gardener, butler etc. I don't care about the random people on social networking sites whom I have never met. And I know most hate me or don't like me. But it doesn't bother me. And those I know and like...you know :)

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    Replies
    1. Err..in your case, you're actually nice trying hard to be bad. Just be yourself, Snowy. Believe me, people will love you as much.

      Delete
  39. Well that is being human , I would say. Everyone does it some doo it often some do it less.

    probably thats the world we live in these days ..

    good one mam..
    and heloooooooooooo how are you doing ..


    Bikram

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    Replies
    1. Hello, Bikram. Thanks for dropping by.

      I've been good, thank you :-)

      Delete
    2. awwwwwwwwwww really :) remember me ....

      (the aww was for you you been good ) he he he

      Delete
  40. Sure, if one can take it! But in my experience, even when people ask for it, they can't handle the truth *cue for Jack Nicholson scene in A Few Good Men*!!! And I prefer not to deal with people's nakhras! !!

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    Replies
    1. Ouch, truth hurts and how! Like someone has mentioned, we are willing to take the truth only from people will love and trust.

      Delete
  41. I shall be nice Purba to say that it's a very honest post and love it. Well, I am being myself and honest. As they say, it's good to be hated for what we are rather than loved for what we are not. Cheerz

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    Replies
    1. It's all about being comfortable with who you are and not customizing yourself according to others' likes and dislikes.

      Delete
  42. Isn't that precisely why we, devised 'sarcasm', put a punch inside, coil it down, and let it unwind on them at leisure :-)

    Blasphemous Aesthete

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    Replies
    1. Hehehe...for me it comes easily through writing but not in person.

      Delete
  43. I have got an acid tongue, so I rather shut up than being honest. :P I mean I have literally shattered people off their shell :P luckily they are still my friends (for some bizarre reason) and haven't dug me a grave. But I have friends who are honest and I am in turn honest with them. It may be related to clothes, writing, poetry or life in general. If my writing is missing tadka, my friends in reviewer group would tell me straight away. I like it that way. But I often censor my comments for people who aren't that close. Why break a stranger's heart :)

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  44. This reminds me why I was angry yesterday. I disagreed with someone on FB, he deleted my comment AND posted a generic FB status attacking me X( So this is what happens when are being yourself. You end up humiliated. Still do you want to be yourself? I don't want to but I end up speaking my mind and making enemies :( (and I speak my mind because I still have to learn the art of bluffing with a straight face)

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  45. True Purba, I guess the social behavior is highly overrated and the niceties somehow have made the society such an artificial one too. Sometimes I don't even know who is telling the truth and whether someone actually means a compliment or not.. Scratch that - most times I don't know!

    ReplyDelete

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