Be Completely Honest In Conversations? (Study)

Honest conversations are far more enjoyable for communicators than we expect them to be, and the listeners of honest conversations react less negatively than we expect according to the paper, “You Can Handle the Truth: Mispredicting the Consequences of Honest Communication” published in the Journal of Experiment Psychology: General.

Emma Levine, Chicago Booth Assistant Professor and Carnegie Mellon University’s Taya Cohen conducted a series of experiments to explore the consequences of honesty in everyday life and determined that people can often afford to be more honest than they think.

They concluded that fears of the consequences of honesty in everyday life are often misguided.

“We’re often reluctant to have completely honest conversations with others,” says “We think offering critical feedback or opening up about our secrets will be uncomfortable for both us and the people with whom we are talking.”

For purposes of the study, the researchers define honesty as “speaking in accordance with one’s own beliefs, thoughts and feelings.”

In one field experiment, participants were instructed to be completely honest with everyone in their lives for three days. In a laboratory experiment, participants had to be honest with a close relational partner while answering personal and potentially difficult discussion questions A third experiment instructed participants to honestly share negative feedback to a close relational partner.

Across all the experiments, individuals expected honesty to be less pleasant and less social connecting than it actually is.

“Taken together, these findings suggest that individuals’ avoidance of honesty may be a mistake,” the researchers write. “By avoiding honesty, individuals miss out on opportunities that they appreciate in the long-run, and that they would want to repeat.”

Now, before you go speaking in accordance with your own beliefs, thoughts and feelings, remember that just because you can say something doesn’t always mean you should.

I tell my clients who ask me, “What’s okay and what’s not to say to my ex?”

“You can say just about anything, but there is a TIME and PLACE to speak your thoughts and feelings.”

Here’s an example: You meet your boy/girlfriend’s parents for the first time and your first reaction seeing his/her father is that he’s scary looking, or after being with them for a while you think his/her mother is a control freak. Later when your boy/girlfriend asks you “so, what do you think of my parents?” You’ll be a complete fool to be completely honest.

Knowing the time and place to be completely honest about sensitive issues, topics and feelings is the ultimate measure of emotional intelligence.

An emotionally intelligent person will say what is 100% honest and avoid a nasty break-up at the same time. He/she may say, “Your dad is fascinating. He’s been to 56 countries. I don’t know that many people who’ve traveled like he has. And your mom, don’t take it the wrong way, she’s really beautiful. I can see where you get it from”.

Honesty is a virtue, and in relationships, honesty is what makes a relationship authentic. Without honesty, your ‘relationship’ is one big pretend. But… but remember, there is a TIME and PLACE to speak your thoughts and feelings. Just because you can say something doesn’t always mean you should.

Be emotionally intelligent!

More: Should You Tell Someone How You Feel?

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