“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people." Spencer Johnson
To be perfectly honest, I find it difficult to give a candid answer without a preface that conveys my next statement will be totally honest and truthful. I took pause today in an attempt to understand why it has become part of our modern culture to use phrases like; "to be perfectly honest with you" or "to tell you the truth" before we answer a question. Have we become so used to hedging the truth and being disingenuous in our communication that when it's time to be honest we need to set it up so our authenticity is not missed? Is total honesty something that we are truly after in our communication? Here is what I came up with for my part in this communication somersault.
I've found that most of the time the phrase "I'll be honest with you" for myself is used out of habit. I consider myself to be an honest communicator and people who know me can count on a straight forward answer. It has taken me a number of years to feel comfortable enough in my own skin to be candid and plain-spoken. Though there are times when I will take the long path in getting to my answer. I fall into using the phrase "to be perfectly honest with you" by rote. It's a verbal runway of sorts allowing my brain a pause to develop a concise answer to the question being asked. It would be simpler to say; "give me a minute and let me think about how I would like to answer that." Imagine being honest like that without even trying.
Our current culture is used to immediate answers and exact information within seconds. Modern technology puts so much pressure on our verbal communication because we have the ability to Google anything at will or tapping into Wikipedia for a background search. with great accuracy. These search engines provide us with the power of instant information, though not always with great accuracy . By comparison verbal communication feels cumbersome and slow. Pause too long and bam! conversation over. We are all to a large degree distracted by our surroundings, cell phones, the internet, email or our own vibrant internal dialog (that last one may apply to only me). Could this be the reason why we feel compelled to announce when we are being perfectly honest? Is this the signal amidst all of the superficial noise and hurried pace that we are about to say something meaningful and sincere? Is this a flair shot up into the sky saying I'm ready to connect and be genuine?
I will offer you my conclusion. Being honest and sincere takes real vulnerability especially when the recipient of such candor may not be open to hearing the honest truth. I believe we all want to be regarded by others as an honest communicator. It's a badge of honor. What honor is there in being disingenuous? I will also accept that old habits die hard. It's my desire to become a better communicator in this fast paced world of instant information. Using verbal runways is not a good way of meeting that goal. Eventually I will break this bad habit and simply offer my honest opinion with no preface required. No hedging will be necessary. Unless of course the question is; do these jeans make my butt look fat? In this rare case it's possible depending upon the answer, that no measure of being perfectly honest will be highly regarded. Honestly!