in Personal, Productivity

Experimenting with Radical Honesty

abraham lincolnAre you honest?

Probably not all the time. It’s okay.

We all lie and hide our real feelings on occasion.

Sometimes it’s because we’re embarrassed. Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Sometimes it’s to save our ass after we mess up.

There are a lot of perfectly logical reasons to lie.

I’m starting to come to the realization that there are more logical reasons to be truly honest.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen the value when people have recently been brutally honest with me. Perhaps it’s because I’ve become a bit disenchanted with a lot of the hollow conversations and circle jerks that go on in the startup world.

The two areas I’ve started being really honest is in my writing and when I give people feedback.

It took me two weeks to post my get shit done article because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I almost didn’t post it at all.

I took me a week to post my article about being broke, because I was embarrassed.

I consider myself to be a good, moral person. In general, I’m an extremely honest person when I can do so while still being kind and cool. But I also get self conscious when writing personal things about myself and I hate hurting people’s feelings. I get worried that they won’t like me.

Talking with a friend about this topic recently, they told me about a concept that’s been somewhat of a movement over several years called Radical Honesty. This article does a really good job of explaining what it is.

The belief is simple to be completely, unequivocally honest all the time.

I’ll say right up front, I don’t think I have it in me to embrace radical honesty to its full extent.

That said, it seems to be a method with some merit and I think if you can improve the percentage of the time that you’re honest, you’ll make vast improvements in your life and the life of others.

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to
succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.
― Abraham Lincoln

Why be honest?

  • Deepen your relationships with people by being honest, which develops trust and understanding
  • Actually help people by giving them feedback they can apply to their situation instead of lying just to avoid hurting their feelings
  • Reduce your own stress of having to keep things to yourself
  • Help people by sharing your actual experiences instead of dressing them up, losing an opportunity to give people something to relate to and learn from.
  • By being honest with others, they’ll feel more comfortable being honest with you

So far it’s been a powerful experience to say the least.

The blog posts I write where I’m open and honest beyond my comfort zone end up killing it. That get shit done article I almost didn’t post has around 70,000 views which is roughly at least 7x higher than my average post. No biggie.

Since starting to purposefully pursue honesty, I’ve had opportunity to sit down and help a few entrepreneurs who asked for my advice. I asked hard questions and told them what I actually thought of their ideas and strategies, no filter.

I’d notice the moments where I’d usually lie, smile through my teeth as the orthodontist at would have done one of his greatest jobs on me and tell them how great they are. I’d feel that tension rising. That fear of offending grabbing hold. On the other hand, if you want to keep your smile healthy, do regular visit to the dentist or have a Sedation Dentistry Options — a comfortable, safe, and effective dentistry..


In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of practices offering holistic dentistry and this has largely been customer driven, check and find out. In the past, clients were happy just to have a dentist fix their teeth but attitudes to dentistry have been gradually changing. The internet has made people much more informed about all aspects of dentistry and how oral health impacts on other areas of their lives. People are turning to their dentist for information about everything from the right diet to sleep problems to treatment options to environmental impacts of materials.

Evolve Dental Healing sees patients from all walks of life who come in and just expect more. They ask better questions and they’re much more informed about heading along a holistic path in their health care, to find a Alternative Health Care. It’s this that has created a demand for holistic dentistry but if you’ve never heard of it before you’re likely to be wondering what, exactly, is a holistic approach to dentistry? Where as dentistry traditionally focuses on the teeth and gums, the focus of holistic dentistry is primarily on the person attached to the teeth and gums. That basic philosophical difference has quite an impact on the way we see dental disease in regard to health and wellbeing.

Holistic dentists usually spend a lot of time getting to know as much about their patients as possible where they examine the patient and discuss their health to get a really good picture of their general health, oral health, what their priorities are in terms of what needs to be doing for them and what they need to be doing for themselves to give them a full understanding of their issues.

But then I was honest. Brutally honest. I told them when I thought they were full of shit. I told them when I thought their idea sucked. I told them when I believed they were lying to themselves.

Looking back, the impact it had on these conversations is invigorating.

Each of these people left the conversations with a genuine sense of gratitude. They left with new perspectives that they hadn’t considered. They left with a brutally honest opinion. They all hugged me and sincerely thanked me. It felt amazing. It felt like I truly helped them.

Give it a shot.

The 30 Minute Experiment

Next time you’re out with a friend tell them “For the next 30 minutes I promise to be brutally honest. Ask me for feedback on anything you’re working on and I’ll tell you exactly what I think, no filter”.

This way, there’s a clear understanding up front that you’re being purposely honest for the sake of providing honest feedback. It’s hard for them to get mad at you since they agreed to it.

Just try it and see what happens. I bet you both come away from that conversation with new perspectives and without the weight of white lies. You’ll have greater trust in each other and feel comfortable communicating openly again in the future.


Imagine a world where everyone said what they think

Being honest isn’t just about being critical or negative. We often avoid being honest about telling people good things we think about them.

Imagine a world where when you respected someone you said “I respect you and here’s why”.

When was the last time you told a friend or significant other that you truly respect them? Why not? Because you’re embarrassed?

I realized the other day that I’ve never actually told me dad that I respect him. He’s the person I respect more than anyone else in this world and I’ve never actually said the words to him. Even if he already knows it, to hear it is what counts.

That’s the thing, when you’re honest, you’re often telling people something they already know or they at least have a good idea. But we’re so good at hiding the truth from ourselves and convincing ourselves otherwise that it can really help to have someone come in and give it to you straight.

Positive or negative, will it create some awkwardness or tension? Of course. But the tension is usually short-lived and opens the gates for real communication. The only way to really work out a problem and relieve tension is to communicate.

Now should you start running through the streets telling people that they’re fat? Probably not. Don’t be a dick.

My plan is to be honest and tactful whenever possible. When it’s clear you don’t have an intention to hurt, but rather to help, honesty is often welcomed.

I’ll also try to choose to be honest only when I believe it will truly help someone or myself. Running through the streets telling people they’re fat probably won’t help anyone. But say you have a friend who’s overweight and you’re concerned about them? It’s super tough to be honest and tell them they need to make a change, but that’s also an opportunity to change their life for the better.

“Truth never damages a cause that is just.”
― Mahatma Gandhi


Can you be radically honest?


Photo Credit: Traveling Seth via Compfight cc


  • MeganStetzel

    Enjoyed this article! It is such a simple concept; honesty. Yet, such a foreign one. I’ve noticed here, in Thailand, that honesty is a way of life. A Thai person may come up to you and call you fat or randomly grab a girl’s ta tas  and comment on their relative size because they are merely stating facts not trying to bash your personal image. Honesty is a cultural amenity here and it’s refreshing to not have the passive aggressive, behind the back, fake remarks that are so common in today’s culture in other countries. One thing to keep in mind is that if we are going to push ourselves to be more radically honest, we need to in turn push ourselves to be more radically open to honest remarks. It is hard to accept feedback especially brutally honest feedback. So I think moving forward we should all pledge to be more radically honest and to be more radically accepting of honesty.

    • DavidSpinks

      MeganStetzel very good points. An interesting question to research would be when a person become more radically honest, do they also become more understanding when people are honest with them?

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