Late last year I went to a wedding where I didn’t know anyone. I mean, I knew the bride and groom — I’m not a psycho who lurks around reception venues throwing back sparkling wine and hoarding strangers’ bonbonierres. But the rest of the guests who I was seated with were complete strangers.
In my experience, these kind of situations usually follow a predictable pattern: everyone makes polite small talk. We all compliment the food and comment on how beautiful the bride is. It’s pleasant and socially appropriate. It’s slightly dull.
But not that night. Instead of the polite, “So, how do you know the bride and groom?” my table of strangers declared the conversation would open a little differently. The rule was, you had to state your name, and the most interesting thing about you.
When it came to the man seated opposite me, he took a breath, and with a smile – and I daresay a twinkle in his eye- said:
‘I realised last year I’ve been massively depressed, I have been battling anxiety my whole life and didn’t know it. Last year I wanted to end my life, but I’m on meds now so things are way better.’
*takes sip of sparkling*
I felt like I’d been slapped in the face. On the outside, I smiled. I think. But on the inside I was thinking, ‘Holy shitballs — that is the most honest thing I have heard anyone say. EVER.’
And then I found myself thinking, 'How f***ing refreshing.'
I don’t know whether it was in his delivery, or just the brutal honesty of it. But rather than pour cold water on the night, it did the opposite; it ripped everyone from the safe, warm and slightly dull place of polite small talk, and provoked Big Talk. The conversation went straight to deeper, better places. Ideas. Ethics. Vulnerabilities. Love. Death. His honesty was this magic conversation elixir that I couldn’t get enough of.
A few days later – still thinking about this night – I read about a concept called Radical Honesty. It’s a technique and self-improvement program developed by a psychotherapist, Brad Blanton, who believes that plain speaking, good old fashioned honesty is what we’re missing in our modern lives.
You know, like Jessica from My Kitchen Rules..’cos it’s working out so well for her…