Is honesty always the best policy? Is it better to tell someone the truth, or tell them what they want to hear and keep them happy? If someone tells you about an idea they are excited about, do you tell them if you feel it’s bad? Or do you pump them up and tell them they can do it, inspiring them? If a friend is in a bad situation, do you give them the harsh truth, even if they end up hating you for it? Or do you let them discover the answer for themselves?
People like to be reassured that they are making the right decisions. We all want to know that whatever path we are taking is the right one, and that our endeavors will succeed. we look to our friends and family to support us in our choices, to help keep us on the road when we feel like giving up, to confirm that what we are doing is right. Sometimes the convenient lies are preferable to the inconvenient truth, but at what cost?
So many times our good intentions, our wants, our desires, they cloud our judgment, and we can end up in a bad situation. A situation where we will inevitably fail, or end up devastated, or seriously harmed. In this case, does it help to have someone support our decision to keep us happy? Does it make sense for others to be positive and prop us up, supporting us when deep down they know that we are inevitably on the road to failure? Would it be better to have someone give us an honest opinion, so that we may escape a bad situation before it has the chance to bury us? Is the truth not better in the long run?
I don’t think there is a black and white answer for this kind of scenario. It really depends on the type of person you are, the type of person they are, the relationship you have, and the situation you are in. But I want to look at pros and cons of the concept of openness and honesty, being frank and forthright, with good intentions. This is known as candor.
Candor is about being completely honest, sometimes at the expense of a person’s feelings, or worse, the expense of a friendship or relationship. Candor often comes off as being harsh, or critical, at least right away, but it is one of those things that can truly benefit someone down the road.
Pros to Candor:
The pros to honesty are that the ones you care about will get a real opinion. They will get the critical feedback they need to make sure that their ideas are well thought out and won’t break under the slightest amount of pressure. People may take offense in the short term, but generally they will respect you and appreciate that you could give honest feedback. Sometimes the greatest strength is being able to tell someone a harsh truth while still wanting them to succeed. You can be very critical and expose flaws in an idea, while still coming from a place of support and love. Your critique may be wrong, and usually you hope it is when it’s someone you care about. The end result is either you are wrong and the person succeeds, which you wanted in the end, or you are right, and are helping someone out of a bad situation. You just hope that in the end the person respects you for it, and if they don’t then maybe they aren’t the type of person you want in your life anyway.
Cons to Candor:
The cons are most certainly that you can hurt someone’s feelings and burn what may have been a good relationship otherwise. Sometimes people don’t want a critical opinion and you can end up putting them in a bad mood. Maybe the person was just asking your opinion for some support, because they are feeling uncertain about their own decision. If you are honest and critical, and end up being wrong, the person could harbor resentment toward you. Maybe they felt like they could handle the situation on their own even if it failed, and they wanted to learn a lesson for themselves. In this case it would be better to let them make their own mistakes, and find those nuggets of wisdom on their own.
In the end:
The choice is ultimately whether to help someone with (sometimes brutal) honesty, or trust that they will learn the lesson for themselves down the road. Personally I always take into account the situation and how the person feels about it, or even test the waters with a bit of a push to see how they react. If it’s someone I am close to I find it can be easier to be honest, as I am more likely to maintain the relationship we have, regardless of the outcome.
If it was me, I would want the honesty, even if I couldn’t handle it right away. If I know the person as a true friend, I can always end up respecting them for their candor. Shouldn’t I give them the same courtesy?
What do you think?