The Etiquette of Honesty

It’s always good to be honest. But being honest is not the same as being mean or rude. Modern Manners Guy draws the line between sincere honesty and brutal truth. (Hint: It's all in the delivery!)

Richie Frieman
Episode #294

When dealing with someone’s cooking, you have remember the following: It took them a long time to create the dish (no matter how unfortunate). They worked hard to make it enjoyable and tasty (yes, they failed).  They are now in the spotlight as they and the other guests await your response. So as your stomach churns – from the food, not nerves - make sure your level honesty leans more towards good nature rather than something you’d see on an episode of Top Chef.

Don’t lie outright, just be judicious. Try phrases like, “It's very unique…” and then nod with a smile. Or, “How did you prepare this?” which does double duty of dodging their question and putting the focus onto the cook. Also, something like, “I’d like to try some sauce with it,” (which would mask the horrible flavor and buy you time to come up with another non-commital way of describing the food). 

Tip #3: Honesty in Relationships

Honesty is one of the most important parts of any relationship, whether romantic, friendly, or professional,  If you can’t be honest with someone, you can’t be yourself and if you can’t do that, well then you’re going to live a very unfulfilled life.

However, you have to evaluate the type of relationship you have with this person and how honest you are willing to be. Some people argue that if a friend or romantic partner can’t take “me being me,” then they’re not the right one. And I don’t disagree with that idea. But I'm more on the side of, “If you care about someone, you should think about their feelings first and then see how honest you can be with your opinions.”

I recommend something I call constructive honesty.  Constructive honesty is a mix of “me being me” with the maturity to offer a reason for why you may not agree with the person.

When it comes to the important relationships in our lives, we usually know how a friend, family member, colleague, or spouse will react to something. And knowing that lets you gauge how honest you should be. Again, don't lie, but just watch your delivery. If I tell my boss his tie looks ugly, and he needs to lose 30 pounds (you know, because I’m just being honest), then I’m pretty sure I know how he’ll react. And it won’t be kind. So why would I bother saying it that way? That’s not constructive honesty at all.

Same thing goes for a romantic relationship. If your significant other asks you how they look in a pair of jeans (yeesh…this can get dicey), they are expecting an honest answer, so do your part. But when you do, make it constructive rather than simply negative. Don't say, "Oh no, those look terrible." That won't go over well. Instead say something like, "They're not bad, but maybe you could jazz them up with a different jacket or shirt?" Or pull out another pair of jeans they have and say, "Actually, I like the way these look on you even better!"

Constructive honesty allows you to be honest while ensuring that the person in front of you doesn't punch your lights out. And that, my friends is a surefire way for keeping your relationships sound. 

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

Do you have any recent graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career, check out my book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career for great tips and advice on job success. It's available now!

Lying woman image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Richie Frieman

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