How To Be Honest Without Hurting Others

Have you ever told a lie to someone, to save their feelings? Most people have. No-one wants to be the one who is brutally honest about something you know will cause upset. So, what can you do about it?

Whether it’s your partner, best friend, parents, kids, co-workers or acquaintances; there are two things to consider before you put your honesty out there. The first is to think about how you would respond to a statement if you were the recipient and the second is the timing or situation, in which the conversation takes place.

Thinking about how a comment would effect you, is a great way to work out how to say it. If you need your hubby or kids to help out more around the house; blurting out that they are lazy and need to pull their finger out; is probably a sure way to get their defences up and will cause a lot of upset. It’s all up to the way you word things.

The best way to address anything that requires honesty is to distance the behaviour or issue from the person. Communicating honesty is just like communicating anything else. If you want to be honest about something that others might consider negative criticism, start with how you feel.

For example; if you need more help around the house because you are unable to cope with a heavy work load; begin with something like; “I’m really exhausted at the moment. I’m trying to get everything done around here and I really need some help.” Addressing how you feel will shift the focus toward you and what you need.

Alternately, if honesty is required for a question like, “do these jeans make me look fat?” A less hurtful response than a blatant no; could be, “I’ve never been a big fan of those jeans. I’ve always though the other pair you have, look so much better on you.” Avoid putting others down and offer a viable solution instead.

If there is a greater issue, such as your partner putting on excess weight; which is what this question implies; an honest response can be tricky. Once again, consider how you would like to be spoken to about such a sensitive issue and think before you speak. It’s very easy to say words, but impossible to retract them.

Secondly, if you have a sensitive issue that requires honesty; for goodness sake; pick your timing. It doesn’t matter who it is either. If your child has just been rejected by a girl or boy at school, it’s probably not the time to talk about inappropriate behaviour. Sometimes adults forget what it’s like to be a kid growing up. What might seem like an insignificant issue as a adult, might be a major concern to a young person.

Also remember than honesty is best addressed face to face, where possible. Technology can hide important communication cues such as tone or body language.

Finally, avoid communicating issues when you or the other person are angry, tired or frustrated. A lot of honest, but nasty things can be blurted out in the heat of the moment. You will spend a lot of extra time and energy correcting an argument, than waiting for a better opportunity to discuss an issue.


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By Kim Chartres