Truth hurts? People can actually handle the truth more than you think, psychologists say

There’s a reason why it is believed that honesty is the greatest form of intimacy.  As much as people want to be honest to everyone, only few have the guts to voice out their honest thoughts. Although there is nothing wrong about being honest, it still seems to be one of the hardest thing to do. Perhaps, this is all due to the fact that people fear how their loved ones would take their honest thoughts.

But did you know that a research study from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business shows that we do not really have something to fear? In their study entitled “You Can Handle the Truth: Mispredicting the Consequences of Honest Communication,” they explored the predicted and actual repercussions of being honest with the people we deal with in our everyday life.

In the study published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, the researchers conducted three rounds of experiments in which participants were asked to be more honest in their lives over three consecutive days.

In these experiments, participants were encouraged to discuss topics they had been avoiding, and to even share a negative feedback with a close relational partner. Afterwards, participants and the people they had been honest with were asked about the result of their honesty.

In all of the three experiments, the researchers discovered that there was a big difference between what the participants have predicted and what actually turned out.

“Focusing on honesty (but not kindness or communication-consciousness) is more pleasurable, socially connecting, and does less relational harm than individuals expect,” the researchers concluded, suggesting that people have misunderstood how other people will react to their honesty. The researchers said that this is because people misunderstand how people react to honest thoughts in general.

“People generally assume that others will react negatively towards increased honesty,” Emma Levine, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and one of the researchers, said. “As a result, people assume that honest conversations will be personally distressing and harm their relationships.

In reality, honesty is much more enjoyable and less harmful for relationships than people anticipate. In fact, focusing on honesty when communicating is no less enjoyable and no more harmful for individuals’ relationships than normal communication or communication that focuses on kindness.”

According to professor Emma Levine,  there are three reasons why people think that others will see their honest thoughts in a bad light. First of all, people think this way because they don’t observe other people being completely honest as well.

Second, people are concerned with how the other party will feel about their honest opinion. And lastly, people often avoid being completely honest with others, because they rarely get accurate feedback about its consequences.

These three reasons were factored without accounting the speaker’s intention and their relationship with the recipient of their honest feedback.

“The more people practice honesty, the more they will realize that their predictions about its negative consequences are wrong,” the assistant professor said, believing that practice makes perfect. “People can also practice delivering honesty in more palatable ways, for example, by clearly stating their good intentions before delivering difficult or critical information.”

Professor Emma Levine also noted that other people should also ask for a feedback from others after engaging in a difficult and honest conversation. This way, people will have a better understanding if they were too harsh or too indirect in sharing their thoughts. Experts believe that, the act of giving a feedback about a feedback is one of the easiest ways in getting better at what we do.

“This will help you gauge whether your honesty is being received well, and help you improve [its] delivery moving forward,” professor Emma Levine further advised.

Indeed, wouldn’t it really be nice if we try to be a little more honest each day? True to the experts’ words, how can someone know if he or she is on the right track if no one would raise it to him or her? How can someone know that there is already a problem if he or she would not be informed about it?

At the end of the day, no matter how painful truth can be, it is still better to hear the truth than be comforted with a lie!

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