Honesty Isn’t as Costly as You Think
Being honest isn’t always easy, but it can lead to rewarding experiences that people would miss otherwise if they tell a fib or half-truth to avoid perceived uncomfortable situations.
Through a series of experiments, the findings of which were published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Emma Levine, assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Taya Cohen, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, found that people significantly overestimate the costs of honest conversations.
“We’re often reluctant to have completely honest conversations with others,” says Levine. “We think offering critical feedback or opening up about our secrets will be uncomfortable for both us and the people with whom we are talking.”
Yet, Levine and Cohen found that honest conversations are more enjoyable for communicators than expected and listeners react less negatively than expected.
For this research, Levine and Cohen defined honesty as “speaking in accordance with one’s own beliefs, thoughts and feelings.” In the first experiment, participants were completely honest with everyone in their lives for three days. For the second experiment, participants had to answer personal and difficult discussion questions honestly with a close relational partner present. Participants shared honest negative feedback to a close relational partner in the third experiment. For participants, each experiment ended up being more pleasant and social connecting than they anticipated.
“Taken together, these findings suggest that individuals’ avoidance of honesty may be a mistake,” according to Levine and Cohen. “By avoiding honesty, individuals miss out on opportunities that they appreciate in the long-run and that they would want to repeat.”
How might practicing honesty everyday impact your or your clients’ lives? Share your thoughts in the comments.