Before I launch into why you might be like Davina, it’s important to remember that reality TV often isn’t actually reality. People play characters on those shows, and Potratz might be a lovely person IRL—we’re talking about the Davina character we see on Netflix, not Davina as a human (because we don’t know her). That being said, hear me out: Even if you’re not ready to claim your inner Davina, you probably know someone who blurts out unwanted feedback and hurts people’s feelings. Maybe they critique your new haircut or ask really insensitive questions about your breakup. Or they could be infamous for blurting out harsh comments that everyone is thinking (but that no one else would say aloud). What’s worse? When someone calls them out on being a little rude, they justify their behavior as “honesty” or “bluntness.” That person is the Davina Potratz of your friend group.
“When you hear people like Davina and Christine hide behind, ‘I’m a good person,’ or ‘I’m an honest person,’ you’ll tend to notice that they usually are only honest about negative things,” Marisa G. Franco, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and friendship expert, tells SELF. Even when you do see these Davina-esque reality TV characters say affirming things, if you think about it, you’ll probably realize the bulk of their “I’m just being honest” statements are negative ones. “I don’t think it’s actual honesty, rather a way to communicate criticism and feel justified in it,” Franco says.
So the first step in recognizing that you might be a villain in your friend group (just being honest) is looking at your positive-to-negative feedback ratio. Then you should be intentional about striking the right balance. “The difference between honesty and cruelty, or bluntness, is, partially, taking accountability for what you’re sharing,” Franco says. It’s useful to give honest feedback, but appropriateness has to be a factor. And—in the spirit of honesty—you should recognize when your delivery is harmful.
It might sound like I’m being harsh (and displaying attributes of the very person I’m criticizing), so let’s take a moment to celebrate folks who keep it real. In a world overrun with misinformation, we have to celebrate the unsung heroes who call out the truth and ask tough questions. But, and I say this with love, there’s immense value in realizing that honest opinions aren’t facts. “Your perspective isn’t objective, and your subjectivity is playing into the way that you might be interpreting a situation,” Franco explains. I’m not advocating that you keep your opinions to yourself, but before you rush to the conclusion that “people can’t handle the truth,” reflect on whether or not you need to weigh in—and on the idea that what you may interpret as a truth you desperately need to share isn’t immutable fact.
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