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Have you ever made a mistake so bad that your automatic reaction was to try and hide it? What did you end up doing?
There are so many occurrences in life whereby honesty is not an easy road. Think about when you meet new people, or someone asks for your advice. We want people to like us. We want to be popular. And sometimes being honest goes in the way of that. At least in the short term.
In this post, I’m sharing 9 reasons why I think honesty is the best policy and give you a few tips to be honest in all situations.
Why Are We Dishonest?
Being truly honest doesn’t come naturally.
Don’t get me wrong, no one likes to lie, but survival instinct sometimes forces us down the path of lesser pain even if the long-term consequences outweigh the short-term benefits.
We lie out of self-interest. Because the truth is too hard to tell or we see a benefit that we just can’t ignore.
A study linking honesty (and deception) to the brain’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex indicates that that willpower is necessary for honesty when it is personally advantageous to lie.
But what is the problem with being dishonest anyway?
The Problems With Dishonesty
Being dishonest can make a situation easier instantly but will be a source of problems in the long run:
- Every time you lie, you are likely to feel conflicted and experience cognitive dissonance, when what you do doesn’t align with your beliefs or values. Your stress levels will increase until the conflict is resolved (either by “making good” or altering your values).
- You will lose the trust of others when they discover your lies. And trust is very difficult to rebuild.
- You will trust others less as being dishonest makes you prone to believe others are dishonest with you.
- You will negatively impact your self-esteem which could lead to developing an imposter syndrome, as you think that you are a fraud waiting to be discovered
It becomes a lot easier when you decide to make honesty one of your core principles. The key is to agree with yourself that being dishonest is not an option you will take. Honesty is the best policy.
Why Honesty Is The Best Policy
Honesty Gives You Authority
When you are known for being honest and speaking your mind (respectfully), others will seek your advice and opinion. It becomes a key characteristic of your personal brand and elevates your credibility and influence.
Honesty Strengthens Relationships
You are genuine in your relationships and this will lead to two potential outcomes: people will love you or hate you for it. In any case, you can develop a true and meaningful relationship with those who stick with you.
Honesty Simplifies Your Life
I’m a big advocate for a simple life. We live in a complex world so anything to make it simpler is fine by me. Being consistently honest means that you don’t have to maintain a web of lies or perform different “versions” of your character.
Honesty Makes You More Authentic
Being honest means that your true personality shines through. You’re not working hard to create a different version of yourself. You are who you are. Your actions are aligned to your core values and people will notice.
RELATED: How To Be Authentic At Work
Honesty Gives You Confidence
It’s often too easy to come up with a lie to get out of an uncomfortable situation. But by applying honesty as a principle, you will develop your confidence and grow in other areas of your life.
Honesty Boosts Your Self-Esteem
Being honest will make you feel better about yourself and grow your self-worth. You will like yourself more as you are true to others and guilt-free. Having high self-esteem is directly correlated to how satisfied you are with your life.
Honesty Helps Others
You don’t shy away from giving constructive feedback to others to help them grow in any area of life. You are not critical for the sake of it but always keen to encourage, support and provide suggestions to improve.
Honesty Attracts Honesty
The following quote sums up this point: “Heart to heart conversations are the best to me. Everyone’s vulnerable. Vulnerability attracts honesty, honesty attracts soul connections.” (Unfortunately, I can’t find the source. If you do, let me know in the comments!).
Honesty Helps You Know Yourself
If you live by the principle of honesty with others, you have to be honest with yourself as well. You will learn to admit your flaws and pains in life. It is then up to you to decide to address or accept them. And as your self-awareness grows, people’s judgments on you become less important.
How To Be Honest In All Situations
The case for honesty is compelling. But being honest in all situations can seem like an unreachable goal. Here are a few guidelines to remind you that being honest is not that hard:
Pursue Integrity In Everything You Do
The starting point is to accept integrity as one of your core values. Honesty will naturally flow as the only possible outcome in all situations. If you find that having integrity is difficult, ask yourself why and take steps to change that.
Have Faith In People
You’ll find that people are more open-minded than you think and willing to accept the truth. Even if their initial reaction is not easy to deal with, if it comes from a good place, they will understand.
Don’t Overthink It
When you catch yourself thinking about all the potential negative outcomes, stop. Don’t overthink it and go with the truth, like ripping off a bandaid.
Think About The Long Term
Being dishonest is guaranteed to cost you in the long term. Remind yourself that by being honest you’re paying yourself forward.
Put Yourself In Their Shoes
Would you like people to lie to you, even if the truth might hurt you? How would you ever grow if you were fed lies to make you feel good all the time?
Take It As An Opportunity To Learn
You’ll be in situations where being honest pushes you outside your comfort zone. These moments build your resilience and are a fantastic opportunity to grow as a professional and as a person.
Every Policy Has Exceptions
Can we always be honest 100% of the time? Are there exceptions to the “honesty policy”?
Last year, my 3-year-old daughter enjoyed the first Christmas she’ll remember. She was lucky enough to meet Santa Claus and will cherish that memory for the years to come.
Did I feel uneasy? Maybe a little bit, after all, I always struggle with lies, regardless of the intention. But was it worth it? Absolutely!
This is a bit extreme but you get the point – nothing is ever clear cut. And with honesty, as with anything else in life, you need to use your judgement to figure out when bending the rule is the right thing to do.
Generally, honesty is NOT the best policy when:
- Your message will hurt the receiver with no intention to make a difference to their lives, and/or
- You are being disrespectful.
If your partner says to you “I feel ugly today”, you don’t (EVER!) reply “yes, I agree”!
Being honest is not the same as saying everything you think. Make sure that your honest words have a point, that they don’t only serve to make YOU feel better. Your goal should be to make a difference. Honesty without respect and purpose is often hurtful and unnecessary.
I’m convinced that honesty is the best policy. It’s not always the easy road but in the long-term, the advantages are indisputable.
We live in a world of increased (almost radical) transparency. Do yourself a favour and show others the real you. It will make your life a lot easier.
I’ll leave you to reflect with a quote from Michelle Obama which sums up nicely why honesty matters:
“We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters… that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules… and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.”
What is your relationship with honesty? Do you find being honest consistently difficult? What keeps you honest?
Let me know in the comments, and please share this post if you found it useful.