On Sunday I was at the Eat Real Fest in Jack London Square. While strolling amongst the throngs I spotted a woman with a t-shirt proclaiming, "One must be frank to be relevant." I wanted to walk up to her and tell her I loved it, but the crowds were too thick.
Lo! A few minutes later she came towards me, walking with her friends. I barged over to her and said, "I love your shirt! It's so true." Surprised but gracious, she thanked me and moved on.
She was around ten years younger than me, I suspect. That is definitely a 20-something's shirt; if I'd had more chutzpah back then I would have worn it. I still admire the sentiment--we need to rock boats, challenge established assumptions, be iconoclastic, and so forth.
Two days later, though, I don't think it's "so true," even though I proclaimed so in my groupie moment. Sometimes being frank is not called for, and being gracious in the moment assures your relevance in the long run. Then again...sometimes being frank is absolutely necessary, but not to be relevant so much as to save one's soul.
Frankness is just one arrow in the quiver, not the only one. And it should be deployed wisely. This is the kind of thing I realize now much more than when I would have worn that shirt.