I’ll start this post off by being completely honest with you. This experiment scares the bajesus out of me. I can not even begin to express the anxiety that I get imagining myself in certain situations where lying would be the best alternative. The truth doesn’t serve our best interests all of the time. Admitting how you feel, when you feel it, and expressing your judgments and opinions of others, circumstances, and situations can come across as petty, hurtful, insincere, malicious, condescending, rude, and embarrassing.
- “I apologize but while you were talking I tried to look down your shirt.”
- “I do think you look fat in those pants”
- “I resent you for inviting everyone else out for dancing but not me.”
I recently came across a few books and a wonderful article covering the topic of honesty.
The reads sparked my interest to look more into the practice of being 100% truthful all of the time, in your words, actions, thoughts, and behaviors.
I consider(ed) myself a pretty honest guy. When I initially thought about it I figured I hardly lied at all. Over the period of a few days I started to pay attention to what I was saying… turns out I’m a liar. I never told any whoppers but I sure do sugar coat, fib, and twist words around to what I thought was protecting people, helping them, and pleasing them.
I lied when someone asked me how I was doing
I lied about the reason for a phone call
I lied when someone asked me if I had heard a song
I lied when someone asked me what I thought of their outfit
My intentions were good and appeared to be beneficial. But were they really? Is withholding or spinning the truth and information in a way that I feel protects people and keeps me from confrontation really doing them, myself, or this world any good?
That brings me to this lifestyle experiment: 30 days of honesty
The honest truth
Over the last few days in my preparation for this challenge I have really been paying attention to the things I am saying to others. As I mentioned before the little white lies I would tell that I thought were helping people and making them feel better are actually ways of manipulating people to get what you want. The reason we tell thee little fibs and such is not so much to make others feel better but more so to keep ourselves from confrontation, to be viewed in a positive light, and to keep ourselves from discomfort.
Now you may disagree with that last statement and if you do I ask that you participate in this challenge with me.
When we tell these little half-truths we’re playing a role. Are we doing anyone a favor by lying to them? I’m starting to see that what we are really doing is expressing that we believe they are too weak to handle the truth. And if you are lying to yourself you’re essentially doing the same thing.
“Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom” - Thomas Jefferson
I’m sure you all have heard the quote “treat others as you would want to be treated.” This is otherwise known as empathy. I’m sure most of us would agree that this rings true. But I’m starting to think that this isn’t true at all. I’d like to think that if I look like hell, gain a little weight, do a piss poor job, if my cooking is terrible, or if my breath smells someone would come out and just tell me… but do I really want to hear those things… do I really want to tell other people those things?
Most of us are dishonest for a few reasons:
- To stay out of trouble (the truth doesn’t always leaned to positive outcomes.)
- Maintain our reputation
- To avoid hurting other people’s feelings
- To make ourselves seem bigger, more important, or more likeable
- To manipulate in order to gain love, money, status, etc…
- To protect the self
Author and psychologist Dan Ariely says that many of us view telling big lies as bad but little lies as ok because everyone else is doing it. We do our best to justify it as helpful and the more you are dishonest and the more you get away with it the more you will do it.
“Broadcasting your opinions is easier when you can deceive yourself about anything you’d feel uncomfortable saying” -LESSwrong
Experiments in honesty
I love science (and that’s the truth ) For every post I write I try to research and find studies that help validate or explain a the hypothesis in which I am writing about. This time the research was a little different. I didn’t believe that I lied all that over the course of a day. Or at least didn’t tell any lies of significance. After the few short days of experimenting I found that I was very much wrong about myself. I was curious as to how and why some of us avoid the truth. Here is one study below that I found over at Livescience.com
In one experiment, Feldman put two strangers in a room together. They were videotaped while they conversed. Later, independently, each was asked to view the tape and identify anything they had said that was not entirely accurate.
Rather than defining what counts as a lie and to avoid the moral tone of the word “lie,” Feldman’s experimenters simply asked subjects after the fact to identify anything they had said in the video that was “not entirely accurate.”
Initially, “Each subject said, ‘Oh, I was entirely accurate,’” Feldman told LiveScience. Upon watching themselves on video, subjects were genuinely surprised to discover they had said something inaccurate. The lies ranged from pretending to like someone they actually disliked to falsely claiming to be the star of a rock band.
The study, published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Psychology, found that 60 percent of people had lied at least once during the 10-minute conversation, saying an average of 2.92 inaccurate things.
“People almost lie reflexively,” Feldman says. “They don’t think about it as part of their normal social discourse.” But it is, the research showed.
“We’re trying not so much to impress other people but to maintain a view of ourselves that is consistent with the way they would like us to be,” Feldman said. We want to be agreeable, to make the social situation smoother or easier, and to avoid insulting others through disagreement or discord. (Adapted from Livescience.com)
Ok, give it to me straight. How are we doing this damn thing
For the next 30 days I will be combining two different philosophies when it comes to the truth, Radical Honesty and Crockers Rule. For an in-depth explanation of each please click on the links provided but I will summarize below.
Radical Honesty: The idea behind it is that withholding information in order to manipulate someones opinion of you is the premise in which we are dishonest. It is because of this constant withholding and secrecy that we experience stress. Being dishonest takes skill. To take something as simple as telling the truth and twisting it is a lost art.
Now radical honesty is pretty hardcore. It is 100% honesty all of the time. If you have to fart and hold it in that is considered being dishonest. There is no sugar-coating, no rationalizing, and no justifying your thoughts, words, or actions. These would be considered forms of denial and thus, not honest.
Another core concept is removing the filter from your brain and your mouth. So for example if you are speaking with someone and think to yourself that this persons breath stinks… you say it. Now I would like to make one thing clear. This does not mean you have to be rude. It just means you have to be honest.
If you forget someones name you tell them, if you’re bored you tell them, if you zone out during a conversation or are not interested you tell them, and if you get frustrated you say it. Radical honesty recommends that you start some conversations with “I resent you because…” or “I appreciate you because…”
To sum it up, if you think it, feel it, imagine it, smell it, heat it, etc.., etc…, you express it.
I know what you’re thinking… scary right?
Crocker’s Rule: Crocker’s rule is all about accepting complete responsibility for your mind. An example is when you get offended. Crocker’s rule would suggest that this is your fault because you can’t handle the truth. Now, I am on the side that the truth is often subjective but in a way this concept makes sense to me. When someone is honest with us it make not necessarily be out truth but it most certainly could be theirs.
This rule is all about asking others to be honest with you. By being honest with others you are displaying security in them being honest with you. In a sense you are asking for it and welcoming it. This is to avoid everyone walking on egg shells around each other afraid to say that someone is wrong.
So for the next 30 days I will be telling the truth, verbally, physically, through email, text, over the phone, thoughts in my head, and in any other way that I can. I plan on documenting the experience daily though journaling and writing about the experience in a future article.
I will try to write every few days about the experience in my observation log found here. Please feel free to stop by, comment, or tease. You will find trial, tribulations, and confessions if I happen to lie… and in all honesty I expect to slip up.
Why do this: Most people say they want honesty all of the time but do they really. I want to find out if being honest all the time is actually a good idea. How will it affect my relationships and my own wellbeing? I’m certain that vulnerability will play a big role in this.
The goal is to be apart of life as openly and genuinely as possible with others. To truly experience life as it happens, no dress rehearsal and no do-overs. But also it’s because I think it’s a great way to drive traffic to the website. Lifestyle experiments always garner attention especially if it is something a bit over the top that most would be scared to do.
A quick personal story of dishonesty: I was getting in a workout the other day and my ex-girlfriend happened to be up there as well. She was just wrapping it up and getting ready to head downstairs to do some coaching – she’s a figure skating coach. I noticed she left her shoes and an art project she was working on at a desk in the gym. I sent her a text message reminding her not to forget it… Yup, I sure am a sweet guy huh? Not so fast my friends!
A few minutes later after I had finished my workout I happened to notice her flirting with a guy downstairs.
Me=A bit jealous here
So I proceeded to take her stuff downstairs to scope out the scene a bit. She thanked me and told me what a sweet gesture and that I didn’t have to. I simply replied “no problem and my pleasure.” Now you may be thinking that this really isn’t being dishonest at all but in the context of this challenge it would be. I wasn’t participating in acting authentically. I was jealous, brought down her stuff for that particular reason and not to be a nice guy. What I should have said was this:
“Your welcome but I only brought them down because I got jealous when I saw you flirting with someone else. I’m a little embarrassed by it but that’s the truth.” (PS: I just started sweating thinking about that).
You probably spend a decent amount of time trying to analyzing other people’s minds, speech, and body language. Are they being completely honest with you? I’m going to hypothesize that by being more honest with people everyday about your thoughts, emotions, and life in general you will attract more honesty in your own life. Other people will begin to feel more comfortable opening up to you and expressing their true thoughts and feelings.
Consider this the start of the challenge. DAY 1!
And honestly… I’m scared shitless.
Think about how many times someone has asked you how you’re doing and you reply with “fine” or “I’m good.” Are you always good?
If participating or learning more about Radical Honesty is something you are interested in please contact me here. Also, check out these resources for more in-depth explanations about how to practice the philosophy.
- Radical Honesty (book)
- The Honest Truth About Dishonesty (book)
- AJ Jacobs Esquire magazine article
- LESSwrong Radical Honesty article
- The Uberman 7-day radical honesty challenge
- Lifehack.org 10 ways to use radical honesty to improve your relationships
- 30sleeps Radical Honesty article
- Why we lie article
- How stuff works: Why do we lie