I hate the phrase "Can I be frank?" As if there's some other way you should be. What possible answer is there to this other than "Yes"? Who's going to say "No, lie to me"? How much more real, interesting, better it would be if we didn't ask the question, but rather went about our interactions just being frank, saying it like it is, laying it out on the table and letting the chips fall where they may.
I have always had an appreciation for people who are willing to put their opinions out there - not just for the sake of attention, ideology or being confrontational (a la Ann Coulter) or trying to offend (a la Howard Stern), but rather for the sake of honesty, for clarity, and, ideally to offer some value to the people receiving these opinions. Too often I find that people don't offer the truth because they are worried that they won't be liked or because they are focused on some larger agenda that won't be served by being more forthright. Yes, I realize I'd never last a day in politics (or many more traditional and corporate settings) with my distaste for the overly tactful and cover-your-ass approach to communication. That said, I still think there are many venues and many people who would be better served with a more straight-forward and forthright communication style.
I was recently struck by this issue when I talked to a Jungian astrologist I've spoken with on occasion (hopefully this doesn't render everything else I say invalid in people's minds). While Ryan and I are fairly certain we don't want any more children, this woman had offered some interesting insights when we decided to have our son, so I thought it was worth hearing what she had to say on the subject. Without having any insight into my leanings or thoughts on the topic, she came right out and said (with regard to our son), that having another child would be something "he would never get over in this lifetime" and would be "the worst thing we could possibly do for him." Wow. That's getting to the point. No fence sitting here. I thought it was fabulous. It completely resonated with me, and I totally appreciated her just putting her opinion out there - no caveats, no moderating.
When to share an opinion, when to keep your mouth shut? It's not an easy balance, and most people probably have a general style that tends more towards one option or the other. I definitely lean more towards the former approach, perhaps sometimes overly valuing honesty over tact. I'm not one to hold back my opinion, or as Ryan says jokingly after I've reacted strongly to something "Ah, my honey of the moderate opinions."
I know there have been (many) times where I've probably said too much, offended some people that I would rather not have. Even so, too often lately I find myself offering caveats when I'm worried that my opinion may offend someone, and in the process, whatever value my message might offer is diluted and loses its impact. The lessons here for myself: To make sure my opinion is considered and not reactive; not necessarily offering opinions on everything when it isn't particularly important; but when there is an opinion I want to offer, to be certain I'm expressing it fully and really properly conveying my meaning and intent undiluted by the safe harbors of caveats and hedging.
While I'm not advocating for rampant rudeness or insulting behavior, I think there are many occasions where people would serve their relationships and themselves better (and more honestly) to say it like it is. My conclusion ultimately is that if the opinions or advice being offered are accurate, they will resonate with the person (assuming they are reasonably self aware), and if the opinions are off base, a reasonable person should be able to process the information, take anything useful from it, and let go of that which doesn't resonate.
Finally, as most topics make me think of quotes that speak to the topic at hand more eloquently than I can, writing this made me think of a poem I remember reading in a college literature class, the sentiment of which I very much appreciated, and believe to be apropos of this topic:
Why don't people leave off being lovable
Or thinking they are lovable, or wanting to be lovable,
And be a bit elemental instead?
Since man is made up of the elements
Fire, and rain, and air, and live loam
And none of these is lovable
Man is lop-sided on the side of the angels.
I wish men would get back their balance among the elements
And be a bit more fiery, as incapable of telling lies
As fire is.
I wish they'd be true to their own variation, as water is,
Which goes through all the stages of steam and stream and ice
Without losing its head.
I am sick of lovable people,
Somehow they are a lie.