Why doesn’t honesty always happen? What is the challenge with being honest with people? It seems that honesty is something that not all of us have mastered and here’s why I believe some people find it very difficult to be honest with others. It all comes down to those terrifying things that we might have to deal with: other people’s feelings!

By being honest it sometimes means that we’re going to evoke a reaction in somebody else’s feelings that we’ve then got to somehow manage and cope with – and that, quite frankly, we could avoid if we just lie or we don’t speak the absolute truth.

People also tend to keep their feelings covered up so that when we talk about honesty we avoid sharing our honest feelings about something with someone else. And concealing the way that you really think and feel is also a form of dishonesty. Now I don’t want to over generalise here, but I often notice that this fear of being honest happens more so, generally speaking, for men than for women. Again, this is a sweeping generalisation and does stand to represent all people, but I think that women are generally better at managing people’s emotions because they often have roles that deal with the emotional side of things more than men do.

I think that women and women are as emotionally driven as each other, but men have been pre-programmed by society to believe that they shouldn’t share their feelings and that they should conceal their emotions. It means that then men don’t get to interact with emotions quite so much and that when it comes to being honest – particularly with women – they know that there’s a strong chance that they’re going to get an emotional reaction and they’re not trained in how to deal with that. They’re not even trained in how to deal with their own emotions, thanks to the current structure of our society, so rather than facing up to the things that perhaps they should be facing up to, they stick their head in the sand and avoid it.

Women are not getting off scot-free here because women to have a way of deflecting things and instead of being honest about how they’re feeling they’re more likely to create drama somewhere else in their lives in order to draw attention to the fact that they’re hurting in some way. Rather than being honest about what they’re thinking and feeling women will deal with it, but just not necessarily head-on. She’ll cause problems somewhere else and then that will get the attention and it will help her to perhaps act out the feelings that she’s feeling. In doing this she’s not being truthful about the situation that’s really causing the pain, which is also dishonest.

I believe that we have a fear of being honest because we’re also fearful of how we are going to deal with the feelings and emotions of other people as a result of the honest communication that we might end up having with them. We have the ability to share how we’re thinking and feeling whilst also minimising the impact that that communication might have – yet sometimes I think we forget that or we’re too fearful of the outcome to engage with our tactfulness. In order to be honest with the people, we first need to be honest with ourselves.

Generally speaking, honesty is the best policy unless the outcomes of being honest are more detrimental than if you were to not be truthful. In order to evaluate whether the right thing to do is to be honest or not, the question to ask yourself is this: for what purpose do I want to be honest? If the purpose for being honest is to enlighten someone else to give them other choices and options in their life and to make sure that they’ve got a proper understanding of the situation then all of those are good reasons to be honest. If the purpose for being honest is to relieve yourself of your own bad feelings and that an outcome of that might be that that pain is then shifted to somebody else then, in my opinion, that’s not a good reason to be honest.

If by exposing someone to that temporary pain it might mean that then they are later freer to be able to do other better things or to move on in their lives in ways that they might not have been able to otherwise, then perhaps being honest in that situation – albeit one that could induce pain – it’s ultimately for the right reasons.

By Gemma Bailey