“You Can Go Now”
Politeness vs. directness in close relationships


A few weeks ago, we got the idea that it would be fun to explore some of themes of this blog in a more dynamic format by using interviews and conversation. So today we’re trying something new – a podcast! In this episode, we tackle direct and honest communication in close relationships.

This type of communication feels risky — it leaves us vulnerable to be open, to share our true selves. We risk offending and somehow being rendered less lovable. Yet, this is also where trust and intimacy are built. Why is it sometimes hard to be clear and straightforward about how we’re feeling with close friends, family, and partners? Is politeness a barrier to closeness? What are the risks of leaving politeness behind and instead opting for gentle candor? And, who is Invisible Script’s cousin? Click below to listen to the discussion.

Image:  Harold Edgerton photograph


  1. Leda and Steph,
    First and foremost, I love the this spoken format as well as the written blogs. It was lovely to hear your delightful voices. I think it is wonderful to allow others to experience your thoughts. I know I’ve always enjoyed being part of your conversations and this was just a nice reminder. I was a little sad that there felt like there was no option to engage with you in this conversation, but you know me – I’ll just butt in right now.

    First, I was struck by how closely your ideas were mirroring a book I read years back called “The Four Agreements,” by don Miguel Ruiz. The agreements are:
    1. Be impeccable with your words (This was a major theme about being honest. I believe it is Leda who says she is trying to be calmly honest with her feelings)
    2. Don’t take anything personally (this wasn’t touched upon too much – but it was a bit about how we take other’s words in)
    3. Don’t make Assumptions (Steph talked much about this and then the cousin – invisible assumptions – bellied up to the bar)
    4. Always do your best (which I think you ladies do, but never really give credit to yourselves for. In other words, I sometimes think you are too hard on yourselves.)

    But the thing that struck me in this post was the idea that politeness “masks and distances” us from others, as Steph said. She did talk about finding a balance of being direct and being polite, but my question is do you really think being polite means you are, in some way being dishonest or less than fully honest?

    In the example of this post, Steph’s boyfriend says – You can go now. While acknowledged as awkward and against some social norm it is seen as a very direct statement. But it made me feel as if this person was not being honest with themselves and others. Leda nails it later by talking about going back to the “I” statement. If Steph’s boyfriend had said (for example if this was what he was feeling), “I feel awkward, the conversation seems to have taken its natural course, is it time to part ways?” He would have been honest, direct, and polite. Direct isn’t always honest. Or am I putting too much on this? Thoughts?

    • leda

      Rebecca, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I agree with your point about politeness and directness – and that there is a way to do both. “You can go now” is certainly direct, but the way you suggested it might be expressed instead also brings more honest (I) and politeness in to it. And let’s face it, politeness is important when we communicate to some extent! I know I appreciate politeness, at least up to a certain point. Now, if only we could all communicate as effectively, as thoughtfully, and as clearly as we aspire to!

  2. steph

    Rebecca– such great comments! I love the way you’ve re-written “you can go now” into an “I” statement. The way it comes out is more gentle (and less accusing than you can go now), and also more vulnerable. I think this the ideal that I aspire to, but don’t always have the presence of mind in the moment to recognize and own the way I’m feeling– I just jump to fixing the outcome.

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