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The Future of Radical Honesty

Updated on January 20, 2012

Take a second and consider how many times you've lied today. Was it once, twice, or three times even? Or have you lost count? Some of us lie so naturally (usually in the form of little white lies, like "Oh, I'm great today, thanks!" or "No, I don't mind.") that we don't even realize we're doing it.

But what if these white lies, and slightly less 'honorable' lies in general, are going out of vogue? What it we're entering into a period of radical honesty?

I have noticed radical honesty and general openness cropping up all over the place lately. I've seen it discussed in books, magazine articles, and blog posts. Greater honesty also appears to be bubbling up in the behavior of my friends, acquaintances, and family. To see if this trend has any potential, I did a spot of research, and have come to the conclusion that we do indeed seem to be slowly moving toward a more honest age.

I've collected my findings below. Have a look at some major examples of this trend in popular culture- and let me know what you think of it all!

Scott Westerfeld's Extras

Author Scott Westerfeld
Author Scott Westerfeld | Source

Radical Honesty in Teen Science Fiction

Believe it or not, I was first introduced to the concept of radical honesty in the form of teen science fiction.

Frizz Mizuno, a character in Extras, the final book of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, is famous for developing Radical Honesty. In this case, the movement takes form in a clique of teens who get brain surgery to literally prevent themselves from lying. The alteration leads to a refreshing way of life, and helps boost Frizz to a high position in the social hierarcy (something very important in a futuristic society in which clout has become actual currency).

Radical honesty nevertheless becomes inconvenient when Frizz and his friends get caught up in a conspiracy of sorts, and the young man's uncontrollable honesty compromises the safety of those he cares for most.

Frizz Mizuno's lifestyle choice plays an important role in the book's overarching theme exploring lies and honesty, but also prompts the reader to consider a futuristic society that, while removed, is already somewhat present today. After all, social clout is gaining real world meaning with every passing day (just look to the rise of Klout, which gives individuals tangible perks for demonstrating a strong influence across social media channels), and radical honesty is hardly an abstract concept.

Weigh in!

What do you think of the concept of *radical* honesty

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Radical Honesty as a Real, Modern Day Movement

Indeed, radical honesty is by no means relegated to the world of science fiction. It is in fact the name given to a very real self development movement developed and championed by one Dr. Brad Blanton.

Dr. Brad Blanton is a seminar leader and author who, in addition to being trained in Gestalt Therapy and hypnosis, holding a position as founding president of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, and acting as a fellow of several psychiatric, psychological, and psychopathological associations, has run for the U.S. House of Representatives twice.

Dr. Blanton believes that lies are a significant source of stress in our lives, and urges us to stop telling them (no matter how polite or small they may be) so that we may enjoy more open lives and deeper relationships.

In addition to selling a book detailing the adoption of radical honesty (which, I must emphasize again, involves being EXTREMELY open about one's feelings), Dr. Blanton runs rather pricey therapy sessions and group seminars. His methods seem abrupt at times, and more than a few individuals have labeled his personal development program as a cult.

In my (quite meaningless) personal opinion, I must admit that the program seems to encourage people to be much more rude and base than necessary (there are ways to be brutally honest in a classy manner. See all characters played by Maggie Smith), and I do not think I would adopt the precise methods Dr. Blanton recommends.

That said, I like the idea of reducing personal stress and enjoying deeper relationships with others by being more up-front and honest, and think that the basic logic and ideas behind Dr. Blanton's concept are sound- and indicative of a larger societal trend.

Radical Honesty and Search Trends

When I want to test to see whether a certain concept is gaining some hold in our general cultural consciousness, I turn to Google Trends to look for patterns in search behavior. To have a closer look at searches regarding honesty, I had a look at terms related to white lies, and terms related to a more blunt approach.

In general, it looks like fewer people are Googling about “honesty” (as well as keywords like manners, politeness, white lies, and polite) today while searches on honesty are holding steady (and terms such as truthfulness, radical honesty, be honest, and tell the truth) are moderately up.

Searches on Etiquette

Decreased interest in etiquette-related terms
Decreased interest in etiquette-related terms | Source

Searches on Honesty

Steady increase in honesty coupled with growing interest in radical honesty
Steady increase in honesty coupled with growing interest in radical honesty | Source

Be Honest...

Do you think your social media behavior has led you to be more honest in real life?

See results

Radical Honesty and Social Media

While there seems to be growing interest on actively becoming more honest, there also seems to be more passive honesty taking place, mostly thanks to social media. Consider the various ways in which social media is making us more honest (often without us realizing it).

We are living in an age of...

  • More voluntary sharing on social media sites like Twitter,
  • More public profiles,
  • Check-ins using various apps like Foursquare, location-tracking apps like Find Your Friends and Google Latitude,
  • Health apps that share things such as weight, calorie intake, and exercise with friends (even scales that wirelessly sync with your computer and publish your weight),
  • And even frictionless sharing on Facebook (which tells your friends what you're reading, watching, and listening to without asking you to push a "share" button first).

Even if we may not be trying to be more honest, it is more difficult to be dishonest when our personal and professional lives are displayed in a very public, traceable manner.

Getting Ahead of Ourselves

In many ways, social media-induced radical honesty may be forcing us to live radically honest lives before we're ready to do so.

In 2011, a collection of attorneys from Raleigh, North Carolina shared that a majority of divorce cases they handle are related to problems with a spouse’s behavior on social networking sites.

What's more, the UK-based Divorce Online found that 33% of behavior-based divorces included issues involving Facebook (namely inappropriate messages to members of the opposite gender, separated spouses posting nasty comments, and Facebook friends reporting spouses’ behavior).

Radical Honesty is On the Rise - Why Not Accept It?

Whether we like it or not, it is becoming more difficult to lie. So why resist? Radical honesty strikes me as much easier... not to mention somewhat inevitable.

At least on a personal level, I've decided to leave off lies for a year and see how it goes. What about you? Would you like to be more honest? Do you think being more honest reduces stress and leads to better relationships with others? Or are you already happily honest all the time and don't know what the big fuss is?

Share your thoughts and comments on this trend below. I would love to know what you think about it all!


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    • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Well shucks howdy, TheHelplessHobo.

      Good point about the difference between interest and actual adoption. Hahaa, let me know when you make that video- I MUST see this!

    • TheHelplessHobo profile image


      9 years ago

      Hmm. You're adorable in a nerdy way, and I have a slight crush on you.

      Glad to get that out of the way, so that I can focus on the topic at hand, right? (Tangentially, if you're a guy, I think radical honesty is ridiculously hard)

      Great video, and although it seems your research indicates "interest" in radical honesty, I still think American culture is headed in the opposite direction, given the "fakeness" of our culture.

      I mean as soon as you leave your front door, it's time to put on the fake mask and interact. Walk into any store and you're greeted with fakeness and stretched, superficial smiles.

      Anyhow, I'm going to do a video on this where I'm radically honest inside a supermarket. Should be interesting. . .I just hate bluntly hurting people's feelings.

    • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks a ton, JamesPoppell! I like the idea of adopting radical honesty in a manner that is as polite as possible. Perhaps it comes down to one’s delivery, in the end.

      You are so kind, Sherry Hewins!!! I do agree that it would be mean to tell someone outright that you think they’re ugly- it’s taking the idea of honesty a bit too far by making it an excuse for being a jerk. That said, nothing sullies the value of true compliments (such as yours- I’m chuffed!!) like a preponderance of false ones (for there certainly are many out there, and all of us are guilty of delivering at least a few), so I suppose the one upside of people being too blunt is that it would mean more when people were really nice.

      Kallini2010- it is certainly a controversial subject, there’s no lying about that! I should really see “The Invention of Lying.” Thanks for reminding me of it! And I am somewhat suspicious that it may not be possible to be entirely honest... though I hope it may be!

      Well said, BlissfulWriter. I agree- or at least that one may omit information when appropriate.

      Burr- I have not read the book, but my references come from Dr. Brad Blanton’s website, which I consider to be a primary source.

      Seanorjohn- it would be CRAZY, right?? I do think that even slight movements toward greater honesty would result in a very different sort of society.

    • seanorjohn profile image


      9 years ago

      I just can't imagine a world where every one tells the truth. We need to guess and suss things out about what is true and what is b...shi.. But if we could all agree to cut out the little white lies, perhaps things would change. Very thought provking.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Has the author Simone read a Radical Honesty book or taken a seminar? I think the opinion is based on second hand sources. I wish people would go to the source of an idea the are going to critique.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image


      9 years ago

      I believe in honesty. When we lie, it causes internal stress (even if we are not aware of it) because of our subconscious guilt.

      However, radical honesty is too far in the extreme. There are situations where it is better to tell a "white lie".

    • kallini2010 profile image


      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      How many times did I lie today? I forgot to count.

      I find the subject rather controversial, but I tend to say more truth than others and it creates ... well... I am omitting the truth, how about that?

      There was a interesting movie "The Invention of Lying" and, well, I would recommend it to everyone interested in Radical Honesty.

      I don't believe - it is even possible to be 100% honest.

      Besides, honesty does not equal truth. Truth is seen through perception and you know what perception is?

      A very interesting topic and a very interesting article.

      Good job and a very interesting discussion,

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 

      9 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Interesting trend. I think it would be pretty mean to just announce to someone that you think they're ugly, I mean what would be the point of that. I don't like to lie, but on the other hand your don't need to express every thought. By they way Simone, you are super cute and I love your style, I'm not lying.

    • JamesPoppell profile image


      9 years ago

      This is an awesome hub Simone. Radical honesty is a great concept. I would suggest radical honesty as long others are not being hurt or insulted. Mainly, if you don't have something positive to say then do not say it. Also, you are so correct about technology keeping us honest whether we like it or not. Your research and effort in bringing us this hub is greatly appreciated. Thanks for sharing.

    • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Yeah, it's a constant battle to stay honest, isn't it Wesman Todd Shaw! I agree- it's nearly impossible to be honest 100% of the time- though I think Dr. Brad Blanton argues that it *is* possible. Perhaps it's impossible to be both 100% honest and be a normal citizen. =__=

      Oh, you make such a delicious comment, SJmorningsun25, about how the whole meaningless "how are you?" question perhaps should not be so meaningless. Many of our white lies are a result of conversation that is not genuine enough to warrant really candid responses.

      You're so right Melovy! It really does start with being honest with oneself. It's impossible to be honest with others without doing that first! It's kind of sad that I only learned that a couple months ago.

      That's an interesting take, Debby Bruck! We do have that choice. And that is part of being civilized. Though I think it's possible to strike a happy medium. Also, thanks so much for the compliment! You're so kind!!

      Oh, right on chelseacharleston! It certainly is refreshing to be honest- and quite exhilarating, too!

      GREAT point, marriedwithdebt! Though I think that's where Dr. Brad Blanton's program really steps over the line. There's honesty, and there's tact, and I personally hope that it is possible for both to exist at once. SJmorningsun25 makes a good point that honesty does not have to mean insults and meanness. It can actually make compliments worth much more than they are now. Like chelseacharleston says, people shouldn't be forced to deal with one's radical honesty, but it is nice to get real, genuine opinions from someone- when they're wanted.

      Though FloraBreenRobison, you're really making me think that "Reasonable Honesty" might be a much more palatable trend! I think that's more what we're moving toward.

      I highly recommend stopping by the Esquire article I linked to from the Hub, Killian Dante! The author gives a good explanation. I do think that the movement proposed by Dr. Blanton lacks practicality, though. And you make a good point about how some bits of honesty can leave more than temporary scars. Though I suppose the counter argument would be that it's better to have those things out in the open.

      I like your approach to answering personal questions honestly, Mr. Happy! I'm going to go for the same thing.

      And I suppose that can happen, americababy.. which is awful. I've probably got over 30 head accessories, though! I should totally Hub about them.

      Hahaa, I LIKE that honesty, Stephanie Henkel!

      moncrieff, I don't think we'll ever see an end to lying, and I do think it's important at times- especially in the name of imagination!!! And very interesting comment about becoming a hostage of one's own opinions. Well said! I hadn't thought of that.

      Healthy Pursuits, that's a major pet peeve of mine, too. And I think I'll get around the "am I ugly" thing with friends easily because "ugly" is such a vague concept! I actually don't think anyone is ugly, so if one takes on that viewpoint, one is not likely to be unhappy with one's truths... heheheheeh.... Hey, it totally works!

    • Healthy Pursuits profile image

      Karla Iverson 

      9 years ago from Oregon

      I enjoyed this concept. One of my pet peeves is people who are so "nice" that you never learn what they're truly thinking.

      However, while I'd never not tell a friend that she had lipstick on her teeth, in the matter of white lies, I'll stick with kindness over honesty any day. Most of the time when people are asking you for your honest opinion, they're really asking you for reassurance - and usually about things they can't help. So if an ugly friend asks me if he or she looks ok, I'll say, "Yes" every time.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great points. Everytime I felt you exhausted the subject, you came up with another point. I think lying must exist and to a certain point cultivated. I want to have the free will to lie, not to be judged and checked upon by others. It's my own universe where I want to be the master. It's also part of imagination process. Imagine when you talk about some exciting events, you may want to paint them a little bit more bright or much darker to make it more interesting.

      Another thing: expressing our feelings upfront, we become hostages of once said opinions. But our perception may change due to our mood, additional facts, growing up, etc., and it would be harder to persuade people that you think now different about them. In general, we, human beings, are far from being nice creatures. It'll be a society of depressive maniacs.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      9 years ago

      americababy - Yes, over the internet on this site vs. people you know in real life are two different things. Because of facial expression and tone of voice, it is much harder to keep things private in real life and pointless in not being honest. But on the net here you do not want to cause a fight if necessary. I ended up in a big fight on this site because I was honest. My honesty was labelled rude. well. so be it. I had to be blunt because the other person wasn't understanding why I was mad without tone of voice. Oh well.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      9 years ago from USA

      I appreciate honesty, and am sometimes too honest myself. However, I don't think I like the radical honesty that some people practice, even though we do get used to hearing some rude things from certain people. I really don't need to hear that I look old or fat!

      And now I'm sorry I told my brother-in-law that he was cheap! lol

      Honesty mixed with a good helping of tact seems to work the best.

    • americababy profile image


      9 years ago

      If you're honest on here you get banned or "shunned". I've already learned the hard way. People are so caught up in being "professional". They'll even delete comments that attempt to start a discussion.

      Maybe a good way to have real dialog on here is if people weren't allowed to delete comments simply because they didn't like them.

      Until then I'll save the "being honest" stuff for somewhere else. BTW. How many cute hats do you have? You should do a Hub about the "hats of Simone Smith".

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Fabulous article!!

      I say this because I guess I am part of the radical honest kind ... I never thought about it until I read this piece of writing.

      I am of the opinion that lying is a weakness of character. If one cannot stand-up for who he or she is, that is a sad thing (again in my opinion).

      So, I tell things the way I see them and that can be clearly seen from my writing. Of course, I am often viewed as somewhat stuck-up or "high-minded", as I was just told the other day.

      I think many people are ofended by the truth, or "they can't handle the truth" - I love that Jack Nicholson line lol.

      Either way, that is not my problem - I am who I am, radically honest, as you well put it. Let that be my worst trait ...

      I cannot thank You enough for writing this. Awesome!


      P.S. I think if I am asked a personal question for example and I don;t want to answer I would simply say so and not go into making lies ... that goes for any subject.

    • Killian Dante profile image

      Killian Dante 

      9 years ago

      This is my first time hearing about this movement, so I'm basing the following opinion just on the hub and how I've interpreted this philosophy. Hopefully those with even more knowledge on the subject will help educate me in the future.

      As it reads and sounds, I have doubts about the practicality of radical honesty. If I can be... honest... I think that the whole idea depends largely on whether being honest and being tactful are mutually exclusive practices. Does dishonesty necessarily arise from withholding the truth when such revelations aren't called for? I could be wrong, but I don't consider people who refrain from open commentary about everything that they think and feel to be dishonest. This type of open "honesty" tends to lend more towards opinion than it does towards truth anyway, I think. And sometimes, opinions definitely need a filter. After all, "even a fool may be counted wise if he learns to hold his tongue."

      The whole thing feels like a very slippery slope. What is the extent of this radical honesty? Does it spill over into physical honesty as well? I mean, if someone is brutally honest in a way that honestly offends someone else and then they get an honest punch to the face, is that going too far? And if you say that it is going too far, then on some level, doesn't that defeat the whole purpose of radical honesty? Doesn't curtailing certain forms of honesty in favor of others then become "selective" honesty - which is what most people practice already?

      Another point (I'm thinking now that I should have just made a hub): You said that data shows that most people tend to get over slight offenses relatively quickly, in a matter of a few minutes. I think that this only really holds true when such offensive things are said occasionally. Imagine, just for the sake of argument, that there was something about a person that they weren't particularly proud of but couldn't change (e.g., physical traits) and that thing was something that other people found generally disturbing or worth being radically honest about. If everyone were radically honest and felt they had to comment, then that person would be bombarded with this kind of thing all day, every day, and their so-called recovery period from these offenses would become obsolete.

      I don't know, Simone. The radical honesty thing is too much of a multi-sided issue for me, and it seems to presume that filtering what people say is a bad thing. You're right, there may come a time in the very near future when we don't have a choice except to be open about everything, but until then, I think that not putting oneself in a position to be lie and being honest when it's undeniably helpful is the best path. An unfiltered opinion on every/most things is best left behind a sense of propriety and etiquette. That's just my view. I'll shut up now before I become a hypocrite. Maybe I already am.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      9 years ago

      I tend to agree with marriedwithdebt about when radical honesty is asked for, and when people offer information that wasn't asked for. I think the idea of "radical" being part of the title is a clue that this is a bit too honest, more honest than being blunt.

      I think little white lies are sometimes necessary to avoid hurting someone's feelings. It means that yes, we are pretending. And I cannot agree with people who think that pretense is always bad. You do want to protect some of your privacy, yes? There is the idea that lying by omission is still lying. Well, yes if you are asked something outright and you say nothing. But if you aren't asked, there is no need to volunteer information.

    • chelseacharleston profile image


      9 years ago

      I feel the need to specify that radical honesty, when done with consideration to others, would be a major leap. I think it's time people became radically honest about themselves, not what they think of others-unless of course that person has signed up for it with you and wants your feedback. There's definitely a balance to be found wherein others aren't forced to put up with your latest experiment.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      "Radical honesty" does not have to mean complete lack of self-control or discretion. It does not require you to be cruel or mean; it is possible to be honest with delicacy, and we are just as guilty of cruel indiscretion as we are of not saying enough nice, true things. If we would focus more on how we can be honestly kind, the world would be a much better place. It is a sad testament to the state of society that the word "honesty" runs so many people's minds to insults and meanness.

    • marriedwithdebt profile image


      9 years ago from Illinois

      This is a really disturbing trend. After all, radical honestly is merely a self-delusion that one has the right to judge anyone you meet, and that your opinion matters.

      I blame Mr. Rogers and the Everyone is Special Generation. (Pssst, not everyone is special).

      I think if I asked someone if they thought I was ugly, and they were honest and said yes, I couldn't quarrel with that. But if I was just walking down the street and someone smiled, stopped me and said, "I'm a radically honest person, I just wanted you to know that I think you are ugly," I would introduce them to a new concept: radical fist dentistry.

      Lies are lies, but many truths are just opinions. Radical honesty seems like a very ANTIsocial movement, as it encourages antisocial behavior.

      Can you do a Hub on the trend towards complete lack of respect for one another?

      Really great video and topic, Simone! I obviously come down hard on one side - will be interested to see where others fall.

    • chelseacharleston profile image


      9 years ago

      I sure hope so! It's why I hub about blasting the taboos wide open. I can imagine a world where everyone is honest about even the most embarassing subjects. People would feel SO much freer and I don't think they'd lash out so destructively against themselves and others. It's really a VITAL step we all need to take! GREAT hub!

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 

      9 years ago

      Dear Simone ~ I don't agree with radical honesty. It's dishonest. We are humans and our nature consists of making choices, that includes self control and "learning" how to behave, plus become part of communities and attend to social mores. Blessings, Debby

      P.S. You look gorgeous in your awesome video! That was an honest statement. Really!

      P.P.S. Just because you may practice radical honesty, other people may not. What could be the consequences of that? Could other people take advantage of your honesty?

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 

      9 years ago from UK

      A very interesting hub Simone. Hmm, interesting to think what it would be like if everyone was totally honest all the time.

      For me, the most important thing is to be honest with oneself - and that’s easier said than done. Once self-honesty is mastered I’m not sure anything else matters, or maybe it all falls into place then. I’m still working on it!

      Thanks for a thought-provoking hub.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Simone: I love this Hub. I find it sad that being completely, 100% honest is so rare as to be considered a "radical" concept in our day; but at the same time, perhaps society is coming full circle and realizing that after all, you really can "be sure your sins will find you out" and it's both easier and healthier to just be honest from the get-go. I don't think people as a whole are ready for their friends, family, and coworkers to be up-front and truthful when they ask a casual "How are you?" but perhaps they should be; perhaps that question should never have become casual to begin with. I could go on for a while, but I won't over-clog your comment block. Thank you for this very interesting Hub! Voted up, awesome, and interesting.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      9 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Despite years of real effort to be as honest as possible.....I'm still a total failure in the realm of honesty.

      I very seldom tell little white lies - but they slip out more often than is acceptable for me.

      Also...not "exactly" a lie, but still an "honesty issue" are my million and one glaring hypocrisies...there out there, but please make no effort to find them!!!

      I don't think it's actually possible to be one hundred percent honest, but recognizing the mishaps and inconsistencies while making efforts at being honest are very noble.

      Now for that tactful thing...oh brother....:-/


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