I find myself doing this a great deal when deciding whether to criticize somebody. I model most people I know as not being able to productively use direct criticism. The criticism, however well meant it may be, will hurt their pride, and they will not change. Indeed, the attempt will probably create some bad feeling towards me. It is just better not to try to help them in such a direct way. There are more tactful ways of getting across the same point, but they are often more difficult and not always practical in every situation.
The people I do directly criticize are generally the people I respect the most, because I expect that it will actually be useful to them because they will be able to overcome the impulse to become defensive and actually consider the critique.
I suppose your question indicates that I should try criticizing people more often, as I have gotten into the habit of presuming that people will be unable to productively receive criticism. But, at the same time, criticism is quite socially risky and I am quite confident that the vast majority of people will not handle it well.
I don’t think I would quiiiiiiite recommend criticizing people more often; I agree with your general assessment of the costs and risks. It’s more something along the lines of “own the condescension that you’re dishing”? Something like, I see a lot of people lying or curating and not wanting to admit that there are implications in what they’re doing (e.g. that they think they’re more mature than the other person).
I think that if you know in your own head that you’re taking a stance/making a claim about the other person, and proceed in open willingness to pay that cost (because you think that even with that cost, it’s the best available move) then I’m on board with what you’re doing. I think it’s often true that one is significantly/demonstrably more mature or more rational or in possession of better info, and also it’s often true that social consequence concerns limit one’s ability to be candid. I think it’s just important to notice, internally, that one holds these beliefs, because if the beliefs remain implicit and subconscious then they’re much less likely to be subjected to critical review.
I think that the claim here is slightly weaker. It is about the odds. More often than not, there won’t be much in the way of bad consequences or you can patch it up. However, occasionally people will take it really badly and you’ll destroy a friendship or relationship over it.
Yeah, I do think that I can become aware of that implicit condescension of not criticizing and update more frequently on whether someone might be worth trying to help in that way. I’m still going to avoid criticizing as a general heuristic, especially after just meeting people.