I woke up today feeling a little woozy after staying up late yesterday at a Houston music festival (if you live in Austin, go see Electric Touch, live – Mobley’s another good band from there). Then a friend called, and I thought of the book I’ve been reading, Radical Honesty.
The premise of Radical Honesty is right there in the title. Say everything, keep no personal secrets, and let the chips fall where they may.
But won’t that people I’m telling it to be hurt by it?
No, for a couple reasons. One, because they already suspected, or inferred, the truth behind most of your ‘shocking’ confessions. People don’t actually have the ideal view of us that we imagine they do. Two, after telling the truth, you’ll find a new balance, caused both by the now visible reactions to your thoughts, and their knowledge that a relationship based on truth will be considerably less flowery than its less honest alternatives. And people tend to like that more than you might think.
Notice that ‘being honest’ here is not synonymous with ‘beating my chest all the time’, or ‘telling people things they don’t want to hear.’ It also means ‘saying things I don’t want to say, because they don’t put me in a good light, weaken my position relative to this other person, etc.’
But if you want the full package, with all the benefits, that’s included.
This friend had some good news in his life recently and, since he told me, I thought, this is actually bad news, but he’s going to hate me for saying it. We talked for a minute before I worked up the courage to tell him; then I said, so this thing… I think it’s bad. Silence, and then, really; why?
So then I said I’m going to pretend I’m not saying this to you but to another friend, who knows us both, who I already explained this to; and then I explained myself – because, basically, there’s a lot of holes in your version of the story which make me think it’s a lot worse than you’re letting on, and likely to fail, unless you correct it now, which you might not be able to do. And then we had the best conversation we’ve ever had, because he was able to express all those doubts which were just implied before, and I was able to answer honestly without saying, yeah, that’s great, uh huh, uh huh, without meaning it.
We agreed, in the end, that we felt closest to the people we could be the most honest around, and that it was good to go through life and make enemies – maybe not many, but some. I think I’m learning that you can’t predict how people will react to the truth, which is why you should just say it. So the risk and it paid off.