Real talk refers to the act of speaking the honest truth about something or someone without fear of consequence. The term is thought to have originated in hip hop—the American rapper Fabolous named his third studio album Real Talk in 2004—and has since been re-popularized as one of the most employed hashtags on Twitter.
I’ve always considered myself a master in the art of real talk. What skills I lacked in, say, math or science, I like to think I made up for in my ability to read people and situations with great clarity. I therefore considered myself as a sort of valued soothsayer when it came to dispensing opinions to my friends about their life choices or relationships.
That was until I partook in a little party game: opening the book, The Secret Language of Birthdays, a coffee-table tome that promises to be “your complete personology guide for each day of the year,” and allowing a friend to read the horoscopic truth about who I am, based on my date of birth.
As it turns out, along with everyone else born on August 9th, I apparently “have many ideas about how people may best enjoy their lives…[and] can sometimes be too generous with my advice…I must allow more for others to decide what is best for themselves.”
Real talk from the real stars. And I realized that it couldn’t have been more on point. (Though judging from the grimaces and shifty gazes among my friends, this was a truth they were already aware of.)
Thinking back, the majority of the conflicts I’ve had in my life have been a result of offering up my two unwelcome cents, crossing that line between constructive truth-telling and preaching.
I recall quite clearly a blowout I had with a friend in a Toys “R” Us. She was getting back with an emotionally abusive ex and I wouldn’t have it, so I kept on ranting about why it was a mistake. “So let me get hurt again!” she finally snapped back at me, after which we were asked to leave. Apparently, we were scaring the kids.
Don’t get me wrong, being able to dole out and receive real talk is integral to the health and longevity of any relationship—it’s just not as necessary as we may think.
The advent of Twitter and Tumblr and all the other various forms of social media have conditioned us to feel entitled when it comes to sharing our opinions on just about anything, from Avril Lavigne’s impending nuptials to Barack Obama’s presidency. But what flies on Twitter may not apply when dealing with an actual living, breathing human being standing in front of you.
The truth is, most of our friends who are journeying down questionable paths know it, even if they’re choosing to ignore the fact for now. And repeatedly chiming in, as tempting as that might be, oft falls on deaf and even resentful ears. Once your point is made, as I’ve learned, leave it alone. Spare yourself the humiliation of being thrown out of a toy store.
I am a passionate friend. I only want what’s best for the people I care about, which is why I have a hard time refraining from speaking up in the face of impending disaster. But the reality, as illuminated for me by the stars, is that the difference between having an opinion and having an opinion that resonates is knowing how and when to voice it. #realtalk