Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever dealt with somebody that is very straightforward and honest?

Does this throw you off sometimes when you aren’t sure how to deal with somebody so direct?

Have you ever heard somebody use the phrase “pull no punches” in English?

Today we’re talking about this phrase, and a direct and honest approach that you may see some people take—and how this may actually be a cultural thing.

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Jessica did a post on Instagram asking people what they feel that their strongest attribute is.

This ultimately means what your strongest personality trait or characteristic is.

This is a response that she got on Instagram, and you may be able to relate to this.

Hi ladies,

I would have to say that my strongest attribute is to be patient. I am probably the most patient person in the world, which has pros and cons. I wanted to ask you about something that I heard recently.

I heard the phrase “pull no punches.” I have no idea what it means or how to use it in a conversation. Can you please help me to understand what this means and how to use it?

Thank you very much!

Understanding This Phrase

What does this phrase mean?

Let’s start by looking at this phrase and understanding what exactly it means here.

When you use the phrase “pulling no punches”, it’s all about being straightforward and honest.

This is about being direct and just getting to the point.

Some people are just more direct than others, it may be a part of who they are or one of their attributes or characteristics.

This question in the example shows that the person is asking questions to dig into real English.

The listener heard a native use this phrase in a conversation, and this is taking your learning to an advanced level.

This phrase is often used in the context of giving negative news to a certain extent.

You might use this to describe when you are sharing a hard truth with somebody.

Sometimes you have to be honest and deliver news directly, and that isn’t always easy.

This may be a natural thing for some people, while others may struggle with the idea of being direct and honest.

This is about how you deliver news, but it’s also about your personality traits and how you handle this type of situation.

Is This A Cultural Thing?

When you think of a phrase such as “pull no punches”, a big part of it is mindset.

You may be a more direct person and have no problem with it, or you may struggle with being more direct.

Is this mindset and approach a part of our culture though?

This can very much be about culture, because not everyone uses this type of approach or direct manner of delivering news.

In some cultures, people may be very direct in their communication and approach.

In other cultures, it may be a much more indirect approach to try to spare feelings.

Sometimes this may be the way that things are done, as being less direct may be the approach used in that culture.

If you’re communicating with other cultures, it’s not about getting somebody else to communicate like you.

It’s all about getting to understand their needs and the way that they do things, so that you can communicate on their level effectively.

You want to find a good middle ground so that you can solve problems and also ensure that you are not offending somebody.

Talking About Your Greatest Attributes

This phrase and this approach is all about delivering the direct truth.

This may not always be easy, but there may be a time where you are faced with this in your own life.

Being direct can be difficult sometimes, but not necessarily if this is a personality trait or characteristic for you.

You may not necessarily talk about or even think about your best attributes on a regular basis.

In the context of business English though, you may be asked this in a job interview.

You don’t want to see arrogant, but you also don’t want to downplay something about yourself either.

So how would you answer this in a job interview?

You want to give examples and tangible things that you have done in the past with companies that you have worked for.

It’s all about being specific and giving good examples—prove this!

So while you may not necessarily walk around talking about what makes you great, you definitely want to be prepared to have this conversation in this professional setting.

Be sure that you focus on this in the right way if you are faced with this question in a job interview.

Other Ways To Talk About This

When we talk about delivering some hard truths, you will find that the phrase “pull no punches” works quite well.

There are a couple of other phrases that you can use to talk about this though.

  • Brutally honest: Brutal means strong or intense, and so in this context it can mean not holding back no matter how hard that may be. Brutally honest means that you don’t hold back or worry about other people’s feelings at all. This may come off as a little mean sometimes. The situation may call for this, or you may be somebody who doesn’t care and is just direct in your approach. You can pretty it up a bit so that you aren’t pushing too hard—you may want to be sure that you aren’t going to put the other person off.
  • Straight shooter: This is more about honesty, and it may deserve in another episode. This is a way to describe somebody’s attributes, and this is a great way to talk about somebody. You can trust this person because they are honest. This is a well known personality trait and the way in which you see them or how they represent themselves.

These are just a couple of other phrases that you can use to talk about the way in which you deliver news.

You don’t want to be paralyzed by fear and hold off on talking to others because you aren’t sure of how to approach them.

You want to know how to talk to coworkers or people in your life without fear of how you may come across.

The best option is to have a fine balance between being direct and trying to keep other people’s feelings in mind.

It’s all about finding that balance so that you embrace your best attributes, but also are in tune with how to talk to the person in front of you.


Being direct can be a difficult thing for some people, particularly when it comes to delivering difficult news.

You now know how to talk about this and how to deliver news in a direct way, but remember that it’s all about balance.

You want to be in tune with what your best attributes are, and one of those may be that you are direct.

Be in touch with what makes you the person that you are, and don’t be afraid to talk about this.

If you find yourself in a situation or an interview where you need to discuss this, then you want to be specific and speak to the tangible things that make you the person that you are.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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