Throughout my entire life and particularly British culture it has been almost mandatory to be polite and never upset anyone, especially someone that you barely know.
Recently though, from several experienced people who I look up to, I have seen them being quite frank (and definitely rude) to people they just met; to their faces. This has included insulting someone’s appearance (facial hair, shirt), the way that they are standing, the things that they say that are clearly rubbish and their attitudes towards life.
Interestingly though, these people end up thanking my acquaintances at the end of the conversation. They have been completely rinsed of any dignity and insulted worse than anyone I have ever seen; yet they are thankful for it. Almost as if they knew they were doing things incorrectly but wanted to see how far they could push society and other people’s politeness until someone actually told them to make a change to their lives and grow up.
I took inspiration from them and decided that honesty was the best policy with a friend that I had been avoiding for months. I decided to send them an email (as it is a lot easier to get your thoughts formalised that way) about why I wasn’t talking to them and being open about how I felt. I got a response back almost immediately that was positive. They were thankful that I had told them what I was actually thinking rather than hiding it.
I would suggest that if you fall out with someone, or dislike something about them that you tell them straight up. The outcomes are likely to be either a discussion about both of your opinions where you will hopefully agree on a correct view (being convinced of their way of thinking, or convincing them of yours – perhaps meeting somewhere in the middle), or you will agree to disagree which at least clears the air! There is another alternative where you completely fall out, but these things are very rare and (almost) always temporary.
Obviously there are limits to this (professional boundaries being some of them – e.g. don’t tell your boss that he’s an arrogant wanker – although having said that s/he might appreciate it). You probably need to make sure you have thought through your argument and point of view so it actually has some merit; but the principle of sharing your knowledge and/or opinion is a good one in my view. The fear of the awkward conversation is always much worse than the actual conversation which is sometimes enlightening.
But maybe it’s a British thing!