Analytical 10: Honesty

3 February, 2017


If someone says that they’re about to be honest with you, beyond its overuse as an expression, does that actually mean they’re being honest?

Transcript available
[Music] Everything can be improved, iterated and refined and if you don't think that's true, maybe you haven't analysed it enough. Calculated choices, carefully considered, absolutely analytical. Analytical is part of the Engineered Network. To support our shows, including this one, Head over to our Patreon page and for other great shows, visit today. Honesty. I'm going to be honest with you. Boy, oh boy, do I get apprehensive when anybody opens up with that and says that to me. That's like, I'm going to be honest with you. It sort of it almost suggests that in any conversation where they don't predicate what they're about to say with that statement, well, does that mean that all the other times maybe they just aren't really being honest with you? This is a matter of course? I mean, there's the aspect of course that the person is saying it just as an expression and they don't really mean it. Well, not really, they really mean it at all. It's just like it's just an expression that you say, you know, "I'm just going to be honest with you." Hmm. And there's no meaning behind it. then, you know, that said, let's assume that they mean it or that they think that they mean it, whether they do or not. Well, let's just explore that. I suppose if you were to look at that and break it down a little bit, I guess there's three aspects that I'd like to explore relating to that intention. So, and what the honesty or the purported honesty is relating to. So, it could be relating to those people in the room where the discussion is taking place. It could be relating to people that are not in the present conversation, either not in the room, not within earshot, talked about, but not to. And then, of course, the third would be perhaps a non-person specific situation. So, whatever commentary is relating to something that's not personal, like genuinely isn't personal. Getting an honest definition of honest is honestly difficult. It's quite difficult. But I suppose it centers about being free from fraud or deception. There's also other definitions that talk about sincerity. I think when people say that, it's about saying something frankly, as in, "I'm going to have a frank conversation," or "that which follows will be a very frank statement." And there's no filters applied and there's no filtering whatsoever. Because everyone applies filters to what they say. It's considered quite rude and offensive in many cases if you don't have some kind of filter between what you're thinking and what comes out of your mouth. Those filters are a part of polite society, I suppose, if you like. Because we have to tone things down when we speak to other people because you need to be sensitive of their feelings, their personal work situation or their personal situation or their work situation, and some subjects need to be avoided. It could be considered unprofessional, just to list a few examples. I suppose there are many social rules that we all struggle with, but like accusing people that aren't in the room to defend themselves is considered to be bad form, bad-mouthing or sledging or outright insulting other people. I suppose there's also being short-tempered, vitriolic and caustic, I suppose, in one's opinions. But the list goes on and on and on. So we try and filter that out out of fairness, kindness and a degree of not necessarily compassion, but perhaps being mindful of the fact that everyone else has feelings, everyone else has a personal and work situation and life experiences that they're dealing with just as much as we are. So, let's talk about the people not in the room bit first. And I suppose the litmus test that I try to apply, call it the actual honesty test or something like that, is to put their preceding statement. But imagine it takes place in the same room where the people that are affected or impacted by their statements are in the room with an earshot and then play back whether that's actually being honest or whether it's just being insulting and those people aren't around to defend themselves. And if you're prepared to make a statement to somebody's face, then you probably- I mean, if you're not prepared to, you probably don't really mean that. You know, if you don't believe your statement could withstand their judgment or their rebuttals or their counterargument, you know, then in short, maybe you shouldn't be saying it because that really is insist you're badmouthing them and perhaps maybe even being a bit cowardly in saying it when they can't defend themselves. So, that's the people not in the room angle. What if the people are in the room? So, the person in the room, again, doing the actual honesty test, and put that against, is this constructive feedback or isn't it? And it's usually pretty straightforward to determine that. In my experience, generally speaking, when people say, "I'm going to be honest with you," it's usually not constructive feedback. To be constructive, it kind of needs to be honest. So predicating it with "I'm going to be honest" is, well, redundant for one thing. But it almost suggests that it isn't going to be. I mean, to be constructive, it also needs to be emotionless, factual, and that doesn't require honesty because facts are facts. I can't be honest about a fact. A fact is a fact. I can be honest about my opinion. That is not a fact. So it kind of suggests to me that it almost suggests that you're getting dishonest feedback if you don't say it. So someone says, I'll be honest with you all the time. They're trying to give you constructive feedback and they don't say it. Does that mean they're giving you dishonest feedback the other times? See, it just comes back to the fact that we apply a filter for professionalism and it's just considered good manners, I suppose, and not insulting. If you're going to give people direct feedback, and that's what it should be, it's not honest, it shouldn't be honest feedback, it should be direct feedback. It should be factual and emotionless. And honesty doesn't come into the equation. So that's the people in the room angle. So the next angle that I think is worth thinking about is just situational. So, you know, and I'm not sure, and this is kind of confusing, but, you know, people say, "I'm going to be honest with you. You know, that water's really, really cold or something crazy." I don't know. It's like, why would anyone want to be dishonest about a situational observation? That doesn't make sense to me. And I suppose maybe that's just in using it as an expression. But it could be applied to something controversial. that's happened or happening in the world, let's say. And in that case, the actual honesty test, have a think about it, it's like, well, if their statement was made in a group of different people with different backgrounds and interests, but their interests were all relating to a situation that was being commented about, would their statement be controversial or inflammatory? So let's say that, let's say that I'm making an offensive remark about somebody's gender and about a gender specific problem, let's say, and people of that were not of that gender were not present in the room at the time. So if you place that, I'm going to be honest with you, you know, this problem relating to this gender is a problem. And if you put those people in the room, would that be considered controversial or inflammatory or just bad form. So, I don't know, no matter how I look at it, that expression "I'm going to be honest with you" comes back to the fact that people believe that it's a licence to speak without applying a filter. And I'm not entirely sure that that is actually a valuable thing, Because a filter is there for a reason. And it takes years of practice in social situations for us as individuals to understand what the rules and, you know, what's considered empathetic. Empathy takes time, and those filters are there for a good reason. So in my observation, people that that lead with that kind of statement, I'm going to be honest with you. They're typically quite aggressive or dismissive and confrontational. And they use that, it's like a tag, it's like a tagline as a method of either obtaining more attention for what they're about to say or to drive home a point of commentary that they're trying to make. But the key point is that they aren't necessarily actually being honest at all. In fact, they generally aren't being honest, they're just being blunt. But of course if you lead with "I'm going to be blunt with you" it completely lacks sincerity. Of course, the oddest part of all is that that would actually have been an honest thing to say. If you're enjoying Analytical and want to support the show you can, like some of our backers. Ivan, Daniel Dudley and Chris Stone, they and many others are patrons of the show via Patreon. And you can find it at, all one word. So if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, it's very much appreciated. Accept nothing. Question everything. It's always a good time to analyze something. I'm John Chidjie. Thanks so much for listening. (upbeat music) [Music]
Duration 10 minutes and 49 seconds Direct Download

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John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.