The Truth About Honesty

4 things to consider before you get brutally honest with the people you love.


I’m not sure why people feel as if the truth needs to be brutally delivered in order to be effective. I believe that honesty embodies the qualities of love, matters of the heart and empathy. Brutality and cruelty are elements directly opposing the true meaning of authenticity — even when dealt in the form of “truthful” words.

Being honest is a virtue. Being brutal and cruel is not.

Honesty should never to be delivered harshly. At all. It is a farce to believe otherwise. Furthermore, using honesty as a weapon to hurt others is unnecessary and uncalled for. You can be honest and kind without being hurtful and brutal with your words.

Time and time again, I have heard people say how they prefer to “tell it the way it is”, but their beliefs and opinions about something are not the same thing as the ultimate truth.

Our perspectives vary. The way I see the world and filter my thoughts are not going to be the same way that you do. That doesn’t make me delusional. Nor does it give you the right to negate or belittle me with your brutal version of the truth to appease … erm … your ego?

My husband is inclined to not sugar-coat the truth. Like, ever. He is blunter than a hollowed-out cigar filled with cannabis. This might sound counter-productive in the realm of self-liberation, but I often remind him that there is no need for him to always express his opinion about everything under the sun.

Naturally, his first reaction is to push back. It’s in his nature. He’s a classic Aries male who possesses a rapid-fire wit and rebellious personality; and he’s a warrior for what he believes to be honest and true. He thinks about it, though.

He was able to understand that while honesty is important in a relationship, it doesn’t have to be expressed harshly in order to make a point. He realized his abrasive manner was causing more harm than good in his relationships — with me and our children.

His hard messages were being buried beneath an avalanche of hurt feelings. Words can be so damaging. Words can kill.

As assertive and straightforward as my husband can be, I have had to learn how to match his strong personality traits with some fire of my own. Each time he chose to speak nothing but the “brutal truth”, I’d show him another, more thoughtful way to express himself without the severity.

I can’t be certain if it was my influence, but over the years he has learned to deploy a little finesse in his brash ways. He has learned that his truths do not always need to be voiced so forcibly, and that there is great value in thinking before taking the leap into brutal-honesty kingdom — And he cares enough to consider the impact of the way he delivers his words.

Brutal honesty can actually impede communication with loved ones rather than achieving harmony. It is about telling the truth in a way that your partner will hear it and benefit from it. In this case, when my husband attempts to be tender in his honesty, I am better equipped to receive it without feeling hurt or blame.

You can be present with your issues with some degree of gentleness.

Fact: Feeling strongly about your opinions doesn’t make it a fact.

Being incredibly honest is not about being brutally truthful, either. I would even suggest that it is in our intention to be “brutally honest” that is actually holding back some honesty.

You telling it like it is isn’t the same as how it actually is; this a fundamental misbelief and where we so often get it wrong.

I’m not saying that you have to compromise your honesty. There are ways to be honest and kind at the same time. We can honor the true meaning of honesty and deliver our truths with heart instead of brutality. It’s a choice.

Consider the following points:

1. Brutal honesty just tends to tear the person down.

What Goes Around, Comes Around.

Justin Timberlake sang a whole song about it and he is da man — Right?

Well, with moves like that he’s got to be.

When he goes around, we’re all in for the ride. Speaking of around, there is no way around it — Your treatment of others will reflect back on you.

Eventually.

So, before you feel the urge to be brutality honest, it is wise to choose your words carefully and acknowledge the other persons feelings.

It takes deliberate practice to actually separate facts from fiction. Focusing on facts — what we see, hear and observe — and then having the ability to avoid a knee-jerk reaction long enough to consider the feelings of others, is what it means to be mindful — to practice empathy and invest in your character.

Keep in mind that brutal honesty isn’t true honesty because the truth should never be cruel.

2. Pause and Breathe.

We’ve all heard the old saying: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.”

There be truth in those words too.

Once you’ve said the thing, it’s out there; forever floating around in word-land. Whether verbally, text or email — once they’re out, you cannot retrieve those damaging syllables and consonants.

There are many different ways to say the same thing, and each version has a slightly different connotation to it.

Why choose to shred someone’s soul when you can be just as effective by honoring and respecting it while speaking the truth?

Sharing your facts and viewpoints with empathy and compassion means delivering your honesty without harsh dismissal, blame or confusion — victimless truth without brutality.

3. Avoid the shutdown.

We all know that person who believes they have the right to rip someone apart in the name of honesty. The ones who shut the breadth of their hearts to justify hurtful words.

It’s a bogus mindset.

Delivering honesty in this way is when you shut yourself down from others and proceed to steamroll over someone else’s feelings without acknowledging their emotions.

Being starkly aware that you may express your truths while simultaneously validating what the other person is feeling will go a long way in maintaining your empathy without compromising your integrity.

It will also soften the blow which will foster more positive and effective communication — they’ll be more likely to listen to you and hear what you are offering. They will be more likely to accept your point of view and respect you all the more for it.

Positivity all around.

4. Honesty is not what you think it is.

Being honest has nothing to do with being angry, hurtful or mean. Letting off steam and venting is not the same thing as truthfulness.

Those emotions have very little to do with honesty, but for some reason we equate them with each other.

Being more honest is about being clearer; more specific; sincere and authentic. It’s about hearing the other person, taking the time to understand their perspective and realizing their feelings are important and thus, should be treated with care regardless of the situation.

A little more about honesty:

· Honesty is about communicating your truths through acts of kindness and compassion.

· It’s about human connection and spirit.

· It doesn’t require you to raise your voice or use ALL CAPS to make your point.

· Truths don’t need harsh derogative comments, threats or brutality in order to increase your honesty.

· You don’t need to be more effective at stating the observable facts of the situation and your honest perspective about those facts.

· You don’t have to be mean to be honest.

And finally …

It’s worth remembering that you can still speak your truth and honor your integrity without being mean or cruel to the other person.

Here is a truth delivered without brutality: There is no limit to how honest you can be; but there is a limit to how brutal and cruel you can be.

You get to choose every time.


Originally published by P.S. I Love You on Medium