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Is the "Blunt" Person in Your Life Gaslighting You?

The intentions lying under blunt communication span from nice to narcissistic.

Key points

  • Being blunt may appear honest and efficient, yet effective communication requires more than bold declarations.
  • Bluntness may be used as a control tactic and as a technique for gaslighting.
  • Unchecked bluntness can harm productive dialogue, stifle diverse perspectives, and foster power imbalances.
Source: Pexels/Timur Weber
Source: Pexels/Timur Weber

A person who proudly says things like “I tell it like it is,” “I’m blunt,” or “I cut to the chase” sometimes does provide caring, honest, productive, straightforward communication. That’s what many yearn for when they seek out a direct communicator, right? Yet in my professional, clinical, and personal experiences, “I call it as I see it”-style bluntness that actually benefits another human being is rare. It requires strategy, self- and other-awareness, empathy, and positive intentions. Otherwise, it frequently hinders effective communication.

I recognize that if you pride yourself on being “blunt” and are reading this, your hackles may be up. Or maybe you’re calling BS on me. I get it; just hear me out and see what you think.

Bluntness Unpacked


  • Is often a proclamation of someone’s opinion. The force behind it makes it feel like a fact or the person sound like an expert.
  • Tends to shut down an exchange of thoughts and ideas.
  • Typically goes against social norms, defying rules of perceived “politeness” or “niceties.”

Bluntness has an appropriate time and place. For example, O’Connor and colleagues (2022) found that older folks with more solidly formed senses of self tended to prefer something like “I don’t like this gift” to polite lies. That makes sense to me since personal preferences or choices, even if said impolitely, can help to inform others about our preferences. For example, let’s say you don’t like a gift I give you. If I don’t know that, I may keep giving you similar ones. I probably care about my gift bringing you joy, so in this example, your honesty is needed to guide me.

On a similar note, autistic people frequently deliver messages with uncouched straightforwardness. If you watched Love on the Spectrum, you might have appreciated the purity of any bluntness witnessed. I did.

Finally, thoughtful bluntness that is said with care might positively affect the recipient. Note the key phrase: said with care. Let’s say that as your therapist, I see you going down a path that I’ve seen harm many before you. I will probably share that information with you in an unpadded way (as stated in this paragraph) and packed with care.

Dangerous Dynamics

If a person boasts of being blunt, they may be telling you that they are not flexible about or open to opinions other than their own. Since that likely includes yours, too, ouch.

When a person leads with “I’m direct”-type statements, they may be elevating their own self-importance or positioning themselves as an expert. That might be fine, except if they are claiming expertise on your feelings or experiences. Declarations about you can create a power differential, with them above you. Thus, it can be hard to ever feel as if you’re equal to or respected by someone insensitively blunt.

Bluntness can be a control tactic. People with narcissistic traits can be quite skillful in getting you to believe in their frankness, especially about you. Their force and commitment to “telling it like it is” may trigger confusion and self-questioning in you. And because they alerted you upfront that they’re “blunt,” you may get blamed for getting upset since you were pre-warned about their frankness and the potential to hurt you. Some call this gaslighting.

An “I cut to the chase” or “don’t waste time” pride might translate to “I have made up my mind.” And sometimes, the person will be right in their conclusion. But sadly, not “wasting” time (especially if said by a helping mental health practitioner, a health professional, or someone else in an expert position already) can be an utterly derailing message to receive–and it may be wrong. For example, regarding “You’re an X kind of person” or “This will happen” conclusions, please feel free to ask especially any professional what backs their conclusion.

Wrapping up

Bluntness might equate to honest or effective communication. That said, bluntness may simply be one person’s opinion or thought thrust onto others with conviction behind it.

If you pride yourself on being blunt, thank you for taking the time to read this. If you made it to the end without mind-screaming, “Alli’s ridiculous!” and stopping reading, I’m guessing you’re probably a thoughtfully direct person.

And if you read this because you’re drawn to straightforward folks and those who boast of being blunt, I hope this post will prompt self-protective consideration. If you notice an undertow of inflexibility, self-importance, or even manipulation from someone, yikes! True honesty and effective communication encompass respect, empathy, and a genuine exchange of ideas. So while "cutting to the chase" has its place, it's crucial to notice and navigate the delicate balance between candor and compassion in our interactions.

Why might you be attracted to bluntness? That will follow in my next post.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide professional advice or therapy.


O'Connor, A. M., Kea, D. C. E., Li, Q., Ding, X. P., & Evans, A. D. (2022). Older adults are more approving of blunt honesty than younger adults: a cross-cultural study. Current psychology (New Brunswick, N.J.), 1–14. Advance online publication.

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