Having watched the latest season of the Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA) you would think all of the women hated each other. During filming, the green-screen edits offered safe havens for the ultimate release of ‘shade’, where the women allowed themselves to be completely unfiltered, as they are given the opportunity to speak directly to the camera. Watching part one of The Reunion (season 10 episode 19!) although eye-rolls and overt sighs are prevalent, the underlying tones are rooted in friendship. How refreshing is it to see that women can be completely honest with one-another, respect differing opinions – despite the often blunt-uncaring delivery and maintain friendships. Of course, “the door is closed!” in regards to some friendships, but the vast majority of the cast deep down have true love and respect for each other. Despite these reality shows often being described as “guilty pleasures” I think we have a lot to learn from this group of women.
This style of open honesty is prevalent in older generations, particularly within the black community. Being a black woman, I can speak personally as a witness to brutal honesty being commonplace with our elders. Often it is not malicious but rather, a form of tough love, whereby they ultimately have our best interests at heart. I am not condoning rudeness or making others feel small or attacked. However, I think it is important to take expressed opinions with a pinch of salt. Growing up, there were times where I received candid advice from elders that hurt my feelings. However, I found solace in the fact that my peers were all subject to the same unfiltered advice or feedback of parents or aunties and uncles. We would laugh and joke (in hindsight) at the nonchalant delivery of what we would then know to be the honest truth. The aftermath of Parents Evening often cultivated the best stories! This is why it is so important to be open and free with our immediate friendship group. There is strength to be found in sharing our trials and experiences, even the most embarrassing or upsetting issues can feel less so by sharing it with true friends. Despite coming to understand the way of our elders and taking their approach less personally, I feel that as with the women in RHOA, we can learn from their mistakes. This being that although the underlying message is of truth, due to the delivery, we’re immediately defensive which hinders our ability to take on board what is being said. It is often said that people listen to respond rather than hearing to understand and I think there is so much truth in this. It is easy to slip into defensive mode the moment an opinion is contrary to our views let alone if the message is conveyed with distaste.
As adults, we need to take a moment to understand that contrary perspectives do exist and whilst we may not agree with these points of view, we should appreciate and respect the opinions of others. This helps us to be more open-minded which in turn allows us to make more informed decisions or at the very least understand motives behind the decisions of others. Suffice it to say, social media does very little to aid this view but rather perpetuates the notion that we are each entitled to be showered only by positive opinions or glowing feedback. Anything else must surely be the words of a hater! A growing proportion of the millennial generation are becoming too heavily invested in seeking validation from strangers. So much so that this often trumps honest advice from close friends.
When the cast are presented with the opportunity to answer for their actions face-to-face – they seem to rise to the occasion and explain themselves and the reason behind their views. Often, the ladies end up apologising for their delivery but not for their honest views. In real-life, there are no green-screens, no edits or outtakes that allow our nearest and dearest to see what we really think. Therefore, it is important to feel confident and comfortable enough to express our opinions (from a loving standpoint) without fear of losing or damaging our friendships. For this to occur successfully it is imperative that we are slow to take offence, but equally important for us to think through the delivery of our opinion.
Written by Gina Smartt
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