The power of honesty

Aside from greater morality, honesty delivers other game-changing benefits

May 3, 2019

Thank you for your honesty… people sometimes say to each other in gratitude. And yet it often follows a deeply negative observation about them. So what’s going on there?


Keeping difficult truths from people can really help to preserve the peace as well as to spare their feelings. The problem is that things cannot progress and the relationship between them cannot deepen unless they can remove the obstacles between them, the biggest of which is lack of trust. They might be differences in approach, discrepancies in appetite for risk or a hurt inflicted by a remark or behaviour. As the saying goes, bad things happen to nice people. And so it goes between people – all the time. The sharing of truth builds trust because it’s easier to lie.  

Price and regard.

With hindsight, as receivers of the negative view, we recognise that it must have cost the giver substantially in terms of summoning the courage to speak as well as bearing the cost of our original behaviour. As a result, our esteem for them can only rise as we realise that they have done something towards us which is the opposite of retribution – a gift of feedback.


I once went to a used car salesman to trade in an old banger for…. another one. He asked me a killer question: “Can I see the worst?”. In essence he was inviting me to tell him the truth about the hidden problems that a fib-inducing battery of more detailed questions would have failed to elicit. It was also as if he was saying: Paul, I’d rather know the worst so that I know what I’m letting myself in for (or more precisely, what you are trying to get me into).

With an invitation like that it would have taken a much nastier person than I to omit the salient facts about the aircon that didn’t work and the interior that had been repeatedly soaked by rain coming through a leaky roof. I told him everything and felt better. He stayed calm, probably knocked a chunk of money off and we parted as friends. I was much relieved to have got rid of the car and not have had to tell a single porker* in the process.  

For those not familiar with Cockney rhyming slang, porker is a contraction of: pork pie = lie.

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