Understanding Radical Honesty; Does It Benefit Interpersonal Relationships?


Understanding Radical Honesty; does it Benefit Interpersonal Relationships?
“Confidence in others’ honesty is no light testimony of one’s own integrity.” ― Michel de Montaigne


For some people, honesty reigns supreme. They call this practice as being “brutally honest” but when this practice involves a consciously performed series of steps, it is referred to as radical honesty.

Radical honesty has shown many noteworthy effects among the people practising it.

In this article, I will explore the effect of radical honesty on interpersonal relationships; whether it benefits the people or just hurts them.

The Importance of Honesty

“Honesty and loyalty are key. If two people can be honest with each other about everything, that’s probably the biggest key to success.”
— Taylor Lautner

I am not very quick to call people “friends”. Only after I have spent some time with them and grown to trust them, am I able to share my life and mind with them. This trust is not something that sprouts out of nowhere.

I know I have honesty, kindness and empathy to offer and only after I see these attributes in the other person do I start trusting them. Then, my mind starts easing around them.

Honesty is the pillar on which trust stands. It makes one reliable and this trait is very rare. It makes life easier for not only others, but also the person practising honesty. Both, intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships benefit from it.

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What is Radical Honesty?

Radical honesty is very much similar to what we call “brutal honesty”. But, it is more systematic. It was popularised and trademarked as a technique for self-improvement by psychotherapist Dr. Brad Blanton. He has authored many books to explain in detail the various aspects of radical honesty and how it can change one’s life.

Radical honesty is a pragmatic approach that simplifies the process of expressing ourselves. It involves the following steps.

    • Acknowledging our current feelings
    • Noticing the world around us
    • Reporting the things going through our mind without filtering

In order to understand radical honesty deeply, we should first understand its core principles, which are as follows.

    • Lying leads to suffering
    • The antidote to lying is honesty
    • Power of honesty lies in differentiating noticing from thinking
    • One can only notice three things in a moment: sensations, thoughts and surroundings
    • Sharing what one sees honestly frees us from the suffering caused by lying and pretending

Radical honesty has often been compared to meditation as it helps a person shift from being passive reactors to active creators in their life.

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How Does Radical Honesty Affect Our Interpersonal Relationships?

The psyche of a human is shaped by their experiences. These experiences create unintentional biases that reflect in our actions and way of thinking.

It is really amazing that an event we may deem insignificant can shape how we see the world. When we honestly share our opinions on matters, we are sharing the ideas shaped by our experience.

When it comes to interpersonal relationships, honesty, of course, is an important prerequisite. But, where do we draw the line?

Unchecked or radical honesty may not always be the best idea. Sometimes, what may seem like an objective observation to us, appears as an uninformed opinion to others.

This is because different people have had different experiences. As a result, their honest opinions may also vary. We may unintentionally hurt the sentiments of people if we report the things as we see them and negatively affect our interpersonal relationships.

Of course, conflict is also a part of growing and nurturing interpersonal relationships. But, always being in conflict can do more harm to our interpersonal relationships than good.

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Can Radical Honesty Be Harmful?

My psychology professor always lays great emphasis on context. She says things work when they are done according to context or in other words, a person’s situation.

Radical honesty may start affecting one’s interpersonal relationships if a person’s context is removed from the consideration.

Let me explain with an example. One of my friends wanted to end his relationship with his then girlfriend. They had been together romantically for quite long and the girl was still head-over-heels for him.

He didn’t know how to bring up the topic. So, he decided to try radical honesty (without really knowing what it was at that point of time).

He went to his girlfriend and told her that he was not finding their relationship as exciting and passionate as he did earlier and wanted to try something new now as he didn’t love her anymore. He still hoped that they’d stay friends. But, he’d understand if she didn’t want to.

I know. He was being very mean and insensitive. Needless to say, the girl got furious. The aim was achieved and she left him. But, at what cost?

Now, in this situation, my friend’s point was that he didn’t want to lead her on and wanted to end the relationship with truth as he had always been honest with her.

His logic was perfect but his words, the way he framed them and his utter disregard for the feelings of the girl towards him led him to hurt her.

A better option would have been to take the girl’s affection into consideration too and then reframe his words so that they’d be less hurtful.

Here too, he would have been honest. But, instead of scanning and printing his thoughts, he should have taken some time to channelise his feelings into more meaningful and empathetic words.

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Radical vs. Flexible Honesty

“When someone loves you, the way they talk about you is different. You feel safe and comfortable.”
― Jess C. Scott, The Intern

Radical honesty can have a negative impact on interpersonal relationships. That doesn’t mean dishonesty in interpersonal relationships is acceptable.

An alternative for radical honesty to be practised in interpersonal relationships is flexible honesty (Read More).

It simply means practising honesty according to the context and timing. That doesn’t mean manipulation but having a deep understanding of how to present the truth and when.


The bottomline of it all is empathy. To sustain an interpersonal relationship, we must include empathy in the equation. Radical honesty can be practised but with caution and only when both parties agree to its usage and benefits.

Sometimes, staying silent can prove to do wonders. Sometimes, reassuring words can save lives.

So, in my opinion we should never forget the power that words contain.

Do you have any thoughts on this? Do you have any experience with radical honesty and have experienced or seen its effect on interpersonal relationships? Share with us below!



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Shraveni Vijaya
Shraveni Vijaya
Being a literature student, words flow through my veins. As a result of this, whenever I am down, I start brimming with words and the only thing that relieves me is writing. Writing is meditation for me and the only thing I hope when someone reads my work is that, it brings as much pleasure to its reader as it does to its writer.

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