In my book, Uncommon Candor, I write how brutal honesty is not the same as candor. And that holds true – candor is not the type of honesty that is brutal in its delivery. However, New York Times best-selling author and speaker Amanda Lindhout has mastered brutal honesty in a way that makes it relevant and appropriate – and also makes it remarkable candor. Lindhout’s candor is honesty about brutal events, brutal people and brutal resilience – and despite that, she delivers her truth directly, respectfully and with compassion.
At the Gazelles 2016 Growth Summit presented by FORTUNE in October, Lindhout spoke about the experiences she relates in her book, A House in the Sky: A Memoir, and I was captivated by her candor.
In her book and during her presentation, Lindhout retold details from her tough childhood with divorced parents and financial struggles. She also shares her adventures as a young adult traveling the world, first as a tourist, then as an aspiring freelance journalist. Two days after she entered Somalia in search of humanitarian stories that would give her an edge over other journalists, she was kidnapped by a group of teenage insurgents. Lindhout continued on to tell about her 15 months in captivity, during which she endured physical, sexual and emotional torture.
With great candor, she details each of the places she was held and the lives and personalities of those who held her. She describes the instability of the relationships with her fellow hostage and her captors, and explains her new understanding of the old adage that “hurt people hurt people.” She describes how her solitary existence and the mental abuse – and the determination to survive it – was actually much harder than the unimaginable physical abuse.
Lindhout’s resilience and survival is nothing short of extraordinary, and her ability to be open and honest about it is remarkable. Equally remarkable is her story about one Somali woman who courageously tried to help her.
Today, Lindhout is a humanitarian, leading the Global Enrichment Foundation which provides university scholarships to Somali women. When asked how she can return to Somalia with goodwill she says:
Because I had something very, very large and very painful to forgive, and by choosing to do that, I was able to put into place my vision, which was making Somalia a better place… I’ve never questioned whether or not it was the right thing to do.
Lindhout relies on candor, not only to retell her story, but also in her recovery – being open, honest and respectful about what it takes to survive, forgive and move ahead.