Confession: I’m beyond intrigued with “Radical Honesty,” the over-the-top movement that encourages people to tell the truth and remove the filter between their brain and their mouth.
Who knew that being honest and speaking your mind had an official “movement?”
Since I tend to live like this anyway, I think this concept is interesting – a little extreme, but very valid. Dr. Brad Blanton, the psychotherapist who developed this movement, claimed everybody would be happier if we stopped lying. He said: “If you think it, say it.”
I firmly believe there is something to that.
The Esquire article that opened my eyes to “Radical Honesty,” summed it up by saying: “Oversharing? No such thing.”
But once I started practicing a watered-down version of Radical Honesty – and sharing the movement with other people – I quickly realized that this mind-set is extremely polarizing. (Don’t get my wife started.)
This was exemplified on one of my friend’s Facebook page after she posted the Esquire editorial. Her initial comment about the article:
“Could you tell the truth? My friend Drew Myers posted this Esquire article on his website definingaudacity.com . Read it. I think this guy is insane and stupid and brilliant at the same time. I’ve been thinking about this non stop.”
One of the initial comments: “ ‘Insane and stupid,’ yes. Obnoxious and revolting, yes. Brilliant, no.”
That was just the beginning of a passionate and healthy online discussion.
The back-and-forth dialogue gave me the idea for this guest blog post. I asked each of them to expand on their Facebook conversation. The dialogue below is the greatness that evolved – it’s heartfelt, real, and most of all, honest:
P: I think “Radical Honesty” brilliant because we waste SO much time dancing around the truth trying to get our point across in passive (usually unsuccessful) ways. For example, I have sat in meetings at work where I KNOW they have something to say but just won’t come right out and say what they mean.
I cannot decode your ulterior motive. JUST TELL ME, already.
Or we allow awkward or destructive situations to go on for way too long because we’re too scared to say the truth (guilty). I think we could have a big weight lifted if we could just be truthful with each other – which is why this article made such an impression with me.
‘Egocentric & Cruel’
D: I don’t consider it a waste of time to try to make a point in an appropriate and compassionate way, or to listen as someone else does so. If you feel people are hesitant to say what they really mean, tell them so (in a civil manner) and invite clearer communication.
If someone asks your opinion (as in the case of the widowed poet), I believe it’s possible to give encouragement and constructive criticism without lying, but also without stating every negative thought that passes through your mind. In any situation where you feel compelled to speak out, don’t be deliberately brutal.
You may feel a big weight lifted from yourself, but take care that that weight you just shed doesn’t crush the other person and your relationship (or possibly your career). The problem I have with Dr. Blanton’s brand of “Radical Honesty” is that it’s egocentric and cruel, not to mention creepy. It’s the “no filters” nature of it that horrifies me, and the total disregard of others’ feelings. Words can wound, sometimes mortally.
‘A Dialed Down Version’
P: I agree that this guy is creepy and I do not advocate his “no filters” approach. I mean, if my husband decided to confess to me that he was attracted to my sister I doubt I would react well and then encourage him to tell her too. That would make for an awkward family Christmas. I agree that he is insane there.
And I too prefer people be gentle with me. This level of radical honesty is nuts. I would advocate a dialed down version of this – which would still create some tension, but I think it could quickly dissipate if both parties understood that it was coming from a good place. Like at work, if they would just say “do this and do it my way.” I would either argue that I disagree or say “okay”. Then we would be done with that. Or one of my egg shell friends. I think in many ways her life would be so much better if people said to her face “you’re a bitch and a bully because you’re so insecure. You always see yourself as a victim even if you have to manufacture the circumstances or distort reality. I love you, but you make it hard to be around you.”
Cruel maybe. But she’s a bitch and a bully. And people enable her to keep being that way by tiptoeing around her volatile personality. As harsh as that might be to hear I think it could give HER freedom too.
‘Empathy & Impulse Control’
D: I reject the idea that it is always our right to confront people, even if we say our motivation is to help them. Maybe in certain situations I have the right, possibly even a moral obligation to speak. But even then I do not have the right to confront any person “filter-less,” and without regard to what is appropriate to the circumstances and to their own temperament and degree of sensitivity.
There’s a reason we want our children to learn empathy and impulse control. Dr. Blanton appears to be amoral (“I’m not morally condoning telling the truth or saying that it’s immoral to lie. I’m just talking about a pragmatic thing.” ~ from FAQ on his website).
Whatever his intent may be, it just looks like he is without conscience or regard for others, and enjoys the power he feels to hurt and offend. Is this really the kind of “honesty movement” we want? Is the world really lacking in sociopaths?
‘Constantly Being Aware of Honesty’
P: The reason this article made me think so much and why I would say “brilliant” is because it made me aware of my own honesty. I consider myself a person that tells the truth; meaning I don’t lie. I DO, however, neglect to tell people things that are hard (see your moral obligation comment).
The only time I can tell them the truth is when I am pushed so far that I am yelling it at them in anger. The idea of constantly being aware of honesty is compelling, but again I do not condone the “no filters” concept.
I think most people can get along with, kind, compassionate, subtle honesty. I can be overly sensitive about other people’s feelings and I found it convicting that this article called attention to the fact that my sensitivity can, at times, be cruel. I know that’s true. And I don’t think “you’re a bitch and a bully” is for everyone. But I do think there ARE times when that is called for. Like those scenes in movies where someone is being hysterical and someone else slaps them across the face which is exactly what they needed to come off the ledge.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Special thanks to these opinionated, well-spoken women. It’s this kind of conversation that has the potential to positively impact the world – different points of view that can be expressed passionately without malice or contempt.