Are you ready to be 'radically honest"?
23 March 2021
In his book Radical Honesty, Brad Blanton argues passionately in favour of total honesty in relationships. It’s an appealing idea (at least to me), but is it realistic or even desirable?
I recommend Blanton’s book, which is a kind of polemic in favour of honesty. Even though he’s a therapist Blanton doesn’t mind swearing or being provocative and, while the book is a perhaps overlong and ‘messy’ in some parts, he does make some valuable points.
One important thing I took from it was how we often tie ourselves in knots trying to avoid talking about something important.
So, what is it that stops us being more honest with our partners, family members and friends?
I think that often it’s because we’re wanting to avoid conflict or upsetting the other person. Of course, it’s not just ‘negative’ stuff that we hold back but many of us hold back from saying positive things to those close to us.
In both cases, where we’re holding back something positive or negative, I think it comes from a fear of showing the other person who we are on a deeper level.
I’m not suggesting we all share what we’re thinking or feeling indiscriminately. We need to exercise our judgment.
think there’s a problem if we notice we’ve got into a pattern of covering our annoyance with smiles or sarcasm, or even playing down our joyful or excited moments because we’re worried it may not seem to be very ‘mature’
Blanton compares this process to the honesty of children, who are naturally open to saying what they like, don’t like, want, don’t want. As we mature we learn the norms of society and one of these is to hide or down play what we’re thinking and feeling.
But then we can find ourselves in a no-win situation because, according to Blanton ‘life is trouble’ - if we hide the truth we find ourselves in trouble and if we’re honest we’re in trouble.
The difference is that when he hide the truth we create a lot of extra anxiety around what we’ve said and whether we’ve been believed, and guilt at misleading or manipulating people.
I would add that by with-holding the truth we create a false picture of who we really are. That means it’s difficult for us to feel loved for who we are because we don’t allow others to see our authentic selves. And that takes us away from true connection and intimacy.
So, we may as well try to be honest even if it doesn’t always go down well with other people.
Blanton, Brad. (2005), Radical Honesty, Sparrowhawk Publishing