Plainspeaking a trait often admired in children but not very welcome among adults. We speak fondly and with some amusement of "out of the mouths of babes", however discomfiting the truth may be. But if it were a grown up indulging in the same, we would instantly label the person as insensitive to others' feelings or lacking in diplomacy.

We all say we welcome the truth but if others were to take us at our word, we would be letting ourselves in for some disclosures that were best kept secret. The ego is a fragile thing and there is only so much we are prepared to face.

The irony lies in the fact that children are taught to be truthful, to speak their mind and not to hide their real feelings even as adults set a completely different example, dissembling and dressing up facts.

This propensity to equivocate is often exposed by young ones who have not yet learnt the art of holding back or calculating the odds before speaking their mind. Thus, you might hear a small child say to a visitor who has inquired about the presence of the master or mistress of the house that his father says to say he is out.

The literal reporting can cause the guest as well as the parent an embarrassing moment while the child may be completely unaware of his faux pas. So, he will be "educated" in the art of disclosure, what can be revealed and what must be left out.

Children are fast learners. They soon get the hang of it the only problem is that this lesson is learnt too well. So, if they forget to tell their parents about certain incidents that may have happened in school, this can lead to recriminations later when their guardian stumbles upon the truth from other sources.

We speak of the "bitter truth" which is an apt description. It is something to be swallowed as reluctantly as evil-tasting or foul-smelling medicine. It might be good for you in the long run but who said it has to taste good too.

Brutally honest

There is a certain category of people who love to tell others that they pride themselves in being brutally honest and can always be depended upon to give you their candid opinion. They crow about being direct and plainspeaking and never backing away from calling a spade a spade.

The only problem is that they somehow come off as holier-than-thou. And while they love holding up a mirror to society, try doing the same to them and you will find out that they don't like the tables being turned on them.

As you come up with a few home truths of your own, watch out for the give-away signs the tightening of facial muscles, the throbbing of that telltale nerve. As the face sets into hard lines of disbelief, you know you have struck home even as you have exposed their lie.

So, the exchange of truth is not always a successful two-way process. You often come across dead ends, roads that lead to nowhere and traffic humps of denial.

The more common experience when faced with some do-gooder who thinks he is doing you a favour by telling you all that is wrong with you is an instinctive reaction to give as good as one gets. So, after listening to a recital of your follies, you tend to hit back by cataloguing the faults of the dispenser of truth.

This is often witnessed among siblings, spouses and friends on the verge of becoming foes. The words "you think you're so perfect ... well, let me tell you ..." are often a prelude to an appraisal that is as close to character assassination as one can get!