If honesty is the best policy, then why does the truth so often hurt? And if there is no such thing as a good lie, is there such a thing as being too honest?
Always late to the party, I clearly missed the memo regarding podcasts. So, after much persuasion and several suggested podcasts to listen to by friends, I finally (and a little bit reluctantly) listened to my very first ever podcast, and by the way, I suggest you immediately go and listen to it now by clicking here! Featuring two social media influencers named Ashley and Rayna who are based in New York, the podcast hilariously recounts their brutally honest dating stories which are extremely relatable to the majority of single millennial women.
One of the topics that they cover in their second podcast, “Are you being benched?” is the subject of honesty. They reference Aziz Ansari’s book “Modern Romance“, (which by the way is an excellent read), in particular a group discussion about honesty, where the majority ruled that they’d rather someone ‘just be honest’ when ending things rather than being ghosted, despite the majority of the group ghosting* someone themselves at some point.
But perhaps honesty begins firstly with ourselves. I discussed the idea of honesty with one friend who works in rehabilitation, helping people battling addiction. We spoke about a group therapy strategy employed in his work, where basically once a week, they sit in a circle, and address one specific group member’s behaviour. Everyone participating in the circle can give the person feedback and share their opinions, but the target (if you will), can only respond after everyone else is finished. I felt that this kind of therapy sounded a bit brutal, surely ending in tears and when I asked what was the supposed benefit of employing such a harsh tactic, he replied that sometimes we are so oblivious to our own faults and behavioural traits because we aren’t being honest with ourselves. However, if you’re sat in front of twenty people who all can see the same flaw in you, then hopefully the realisation that twenty people cannot be wrong will dawn on the person and they will be able to finally see what they were in denial about before. “It is a very emotional therapy though, Pam.” He told me, “Nobody want’s to be confronted with the things they refuse to accept about themselves.” and I have to say, I agree.
I put it to the team, if you could, would you really want to know what people thought about you? We are forever saying to one another, “I wish he/she’d just be honest with me.” but when it comes down to it, do we really want to know how others perceive us? The general consensus among us after discussing was, no, not really. If there is something we don’t like about ourselves, there’s really no need for someone else to point it out to us thank you very much, because deep down no matter how much we try to suppress it, we already know. However, if someone asks for an opinion, most people appreciate honesty that is delivered in diplomatic way. For example, telling someone that the nude pink dress they’re wearing makes them look four sizes bigger than they actually are is unnecessarily cruel, but it doesn’t mean you need to lie or allow your friend to venture out in public looking like Mr.Blobby. The opinion can be worded in a kinder, more diplomatic way therefore ensuring your friend doesn’t make a fool of themselves; “I think you should wear that gorgeous red dress you’ve got – it looks amazing on you!”. I for one would rather be told an outfit is unflattering on me than discovering it myself a week later when looking back at the photographs wondering why anyone let me leave the house looking like Shamu.
My mum is always going on about how lovely my friends are (none of them would ever let me leave the house looking like Shamu, for sure) and that I am lucky to be surrounded by such a great network of people (hashtag BLESSED). She told me that I don’t have one friend who she doesn’t approve of, and I have to agree (obviously I am biased because I love all of my friends, or we wouldn’t actually be pals, plus I kind of hope that the feeling is mutual…?). I do not befriend overtly arsehole people, but somewhere in between my other 1000000 anxious thoughts that circulate my brain on a daily basis, I appear to have developed some kind of background fear after reading a theory online, that there’s always one arsehole, annoying, less nice friend in every single friend group. I racked my brains and recounted all of my friends, and I could not pigeon hole even ONE of my friends into that category due to their inherent niceness. Not a single one! And that’s where my panic set in. “OHMYGOD. AM I THE TOKEN ARSEHOLE FRIEND OF MY SQUAD OR IS THIS MY PARANOIA** TALKING???”. Maybe I could actually benefit from some circle therapy… WHERE DO I SIGN MYSELF UP? I can already imagine it. “Pam, we love you but you always talk about yourself.” or “You’re inability to be on time for anything other than work is highly frustrating and blah blah blah….” All of my flaws laid out bare for me to explain.
But when it comes to romantic relationships – do we really want someone to be brutally honest about why they don’t like us? Especially in our vulnerability when they are ending things? One friend said, “Well, if it’s for something like, the person is shit in bed, then that’s an embarrassing thing to say to someone which could really knock their confidence in future relationships, so maybe better to just make an excuse…” Is this a totally British thing, due to our national need for politeness – God forbid we are unmannerly? Surely we should tell someone where (in our opinion) they’re going wrong so they can learn from their mistakes and put a stop to this behavioural pattern. Or what if there is someone else? “I’m dumping you because I met someone better?” – a sure fire way to give someone a complex and shatter their confidence forevermore.
A good piece of advice I recently heard thought another podcast (wahheyy – I am embracing this podcast stuff, oh – and more advice here) is a quote by Maya Angelou.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
When someone tells you they’re ‘not looking for anything serious’, you best believe them. It is not an invitation to try and ‘lock them down’. You cannot tame something that doesn’t want to be tamed. They’re showing you their full hand of cards so to speak and that scenario can only end in heartbreak.
I asked my mum what she thought about honesty and she said, that when it comes to relationships, in particular ending things, then honesty is always the best policy. She said, “Sometimes it’s cruel to be kind – saves them thinking, ‘oh we might get back together’ etc”. To be fair, I’d rather someone actually tell me it’s going nowhere than ghost me, particularly if you’ve been dating a while. The scenario might reduce them to tears but they’ll cry a lot more if the bomb drops waaaay further down the line. It’s a bit like a pulling off a plaster in that sense – the sooner you rip it off, the quicker the sting will subside.
But I do think that there are occasional times that warrant keeping our opinions to ourself – for example if the opinion is going to cause unnecessary worry or hurt, is it really beneficial to share it? An example of this would be if you don’t like one of your boyfriend’s pals. Or your boyfriend’s granny or something. At the end of the day, you’re dating him, not his pal or his granny and it doesn’t take much effort on your part to avoid them. Plus telling him the truth – that you think his childhood pal’s jokes are crap and he is a bit weird, not to mention creepy*** – would only be hurtful to the guy your heart likes.
One friend of mine who encounters some absolute ratchets on Tinder was telling me about this girl he matched with who’s into polyamorous relationships. He asked me what did I think about it all? I thought about it, and while it’s obvious that people are living longer than ever, fuelling the possibility that people might outgrow one another and are no longer suited to the person they were in their early twenties. However, I am in fact quite old school and an avid supporter of monogamy. I cannot imagine knowingly sitting at home in my pjs with King Gustavo and Lady Penelope watching Peaky Blinders, munching on Malteasers while the man I love is knowingly out doing cute, date things with someone else. NO way. Maybe it’s the only child factor that leaves a nasty taste when I think about sharing a boyfriend with a few other girls, but I would not want to have a boyfriend that would be quite happy to share me either. Imagine how awkward that would be on date night, running into his other girlfriend??? It’s one thing about the Islamic culture that has always baffled me whilst living in Dubai. Five wives? I don’t think I’d like that unless I didn’t like my husband! In which case, the more wives, the merrier in the hope that he’d see more of them and less of me!
But the reality of a polyamorous relationship is very different. I have one friend who fell head over heels in love with a guy, who despite declaring his undying love, suggested that they try an open relationship where he could sleep with other girls. The suggestion alone was devastating to my friend – was she not enough for him? But if he had just been honest about his intentions from the get go, then maybe my friend wouldn’t have gotten involved, and would have saved herself a lot of time, money and most of all heartbreak.
So, to summarise? Honesty out of kindness when delivered tactfully is not only the most admirable, but the best policy for 99% of things – the other 1% is reserved for rare surprises, or for the times where you’ll cause unnecessary hurt, and in that case, there’s always a little white lie.
*FYI – if you don’t know what ghosting is, then it’s described as “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.”
** See earlier post on PARA PAM
***I’d just like to point out that any reference to said ‘pal’ is completely fictional and merely coincidental, mainly because I don’t actually have a boyfriend. Nor a granny.