Being Honest About Being Honest

Jacki Potorke - progress

Part of being vulnerable is acknowledging when you don’t want to be vulnerable. The most honest thing you can say is sometimes: “I don’t feel like being honest with you about this.” If the person is kind and respectful, she will view your statement as a truthful marker of your relationship not as an insult toward her. And hopefully she will see the integrity in your words, approaching your hesitation with curiosity and patience.

Alternatively, what about when you realize after the fact that you were not being honest in the moment? What should you do when you feel that pang of guilt setting in?

I have faced this many times and I’m sure I am not alone. But let me tell you a secret. Are you ready? …Put on your sci-fi helmet. Okay, you’re all set? Good…. Here’s the secret:

…IT’S A TRAP!!!!

The trap being thus – If you don’t tell her you weren’t being honest you are likely continue this behavior in the future; but if you tell her you were being dishonest you open yourself up to the implied expectation that she should ease your discomfort of guilt somehow. Granted this is not always the case, but it certainly is a real fear that arises from the self-criticism ‘I should have been more honest.” NB: Often we tell ourselves that since it wasn’t a flat out lie, there’s no need to make a big deal out of it. However this doesn’t help anymore than the self-criticism. If anything, it’s worse because you’re denying that your own feelings of guilt are valid!

So what can you do when, on reflection, you realize that you were being less than truthful with someone in your life? How do you bypass the Siamese finger trap of honesty? There are two things I would suggest, and both come down to the same basic principle — asking questions. First and foremost, ask yourself about your feelings and justifications that follow. If you’re a subscriber to this blog you know how much I emphasize consulting your Team Self (TS). Close your eyes and ask yourself why you were not honest. If need be, do a role play between your you and your inner prosecution. Chances are, the other side has a pretty good defense.

The second suggestion only applies if you feel like talking to the other person will truly help clear your conscience. Consequently, if the court has decided guilty (remember that our internal courts should have unanimous consent before leaping to action) then this strategy may be worth considering. In this case, I suggest a dialogue with the other person which goes something like the follow: “Hey! Listen, remember the other day when you were asking me about [blank]? I don’t feel that I was being as honest with you as I could have. I’d be happy to tell you more but perhaps you can tell me how you experienced our interaction…”

That’s it! The dialogue is entirely truthful AND the other person doesn’t feel burdened to alleviate the situation because you’re opening it back up to her. I’m not saying it’s easy or even quick, however curiosity will never mislead you when it comes to honesty. Honestly.

2 thoughts on “Being Honest About Being Honest

  1. Thank you, Matthew, for this article – and for the other articles on your blog! You really got me thinking, feeling (and consulting my inner team).

    For many years now I’m on a path of being ever more honest – with people I’m close with and within reason with others as well. And I’ve already reaped great rewards. So I thought I had this down pat. But reading your article I noticed my first reaction to be: Why’s he even talking about how to handle the after-effects of dishonesty? Just be honest all the time! …

    Another voice came up within myself: “And if you’ve been dishonest, don’t feel guilty! You hafta had got ya’ reasons!” Feeling pretty self-righteous now. Only then I noticed: these two of my inner statements don’t fit together logically. I was lying to myself that I was being honest the whole day, and when faced with the fact that I did hide something, I switched to strategy #2: whatever I did must have been the good.

    So I opened up my inner conference table and found lots of voices within me, wanting to talk about honesty and fear. I feel less rigid right now, I feel nicely warm from within and confused, but in a good way. I want to mull this over some more. Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Janne, you went further than I did here dialoguing with your inner voices which I think is suberb – great job! If you’re feeling the first voice persisting to critique you here’s what I suggest: take his advice. Try to go one day being completely honest with everyone you encounter. Remark to your grocer on the enormous mole she has on her face, or tell your boss that you don’t want to do any work today. In other words, assume that he is right until he admits himself that maybe this isn’t really the case.
      We all understand that honesty is an important component to those relationships which we value most. However, if you are equally honest to everyone all the time (assuming for the moment that such a feat is possible), then what does that say about the relationships which you claim are valuable? Doesn’t it imply you are being honest because you feel an obligation and not because you want to share your genuineness?

      You’re very welcome! Thanks for reading and commenting.


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