Radical Honesty?

chinese-676647_1280I was listening to an interview with AJ Jacobs, author of Drop Dead Healthy (which I loved) and he was talking about habit changes he’s tried and you can try as well. He talked about one called Radical Honesty. It’s as honest as its title. The idea is you say everything that pops into your head. #nofilter. Jacobs said he did this for a month and it was the worst month of his life. I can totally get that. He hurt feelings, people were mad at him, etc. you can imagine. What he recommended instead was a filter that allows you to say whatever pops into your head provided it is kind. So expressions of gratitude. I like that. And I think is a decent idea (though one I do pretty readily).

However, I think my modification would be different. What if you were ALWAYS radically honest but with yourself?

Here’s the thing. Some of us hold a really essential master assessment of being kind and polite. This is me for sure. I am trying my hardest to make this true for my kids too (but we can’t make them… blah blah yada yada… that’s another article altogether). But we get so caught up in only saying what’s nice our inner monologue starts to shift and only allows nice thoughts. And this belies our true desires.

The example Jacobs used was in a chance meeting with estranged friends of his wife, the friends suggested they plan a get together. Since he was practicing radical honesty at the time he was compelled to say that he had no interest in ever seeing them socially. They were appalled. And, incidentally, wish granted. But of course with collateral damage.

But in that same situation, if it were me, my body would likely send signals that I didn’t want to hang out with them. I would feel anxious and uncomfortable. It would likely also be confused because I desperately enjoy being invited to things so I’d probably also be honored and grateful. So my language would likely reveal the more polite thing – to say yes and get to planning straight away. Because I have a lifelong habit of saying what’s polite instead of heeding my body’s truth – which is that I don’t have energy to devote to that relationship at this time.

So my proposal is this – practice radical honesty to yourself. And acknowledge it. Entertain the inner monologue that is screaming – you don’t want to do that!!! Develop the practice of listening to your heart’s desire. And when heart reaches mouth, be honestly kind. “I’m honored by your gesture. I can’t commit to getting together though. I hope you understand.”

In what situations would radical honesty had led you to a different choice? How might it have served you? How might it have harmed you?


Happier with Gretchen Rubin, episode 25

Books by AJ Jacobs (affiliate links):

Radical Honesty by Dr. Brad Blanton

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