Trust and Radical Honesty

The July, 2007 issue of Esquire (not yet online as of this date) has a story called “I Think You’re Fat,” by A. J. Jacobs. It asks—and answers—the age-old question, what do you say when your wife asks you if this dress makes her look fat?

And that’s just for openers.

It describes writer Jacobs’ encounters with a movement called Radical Honesty; actually, with its founder Brad Blanton. And it’s a trip.

Trust Matters readers know I’ve written about honesty and lying before (most recently with Andrea Howe in Truth, Lies and Unicorns.)

But Blanton takes it to another level. Higher? Well, certainly a different level.

Blanton urges—and lives by—a very simple rule. Flat-out, no holds-barred, absolute, unquestioned honesty. About everything. Period. Open mouth, exit thought. No excuses, no caveats, no handholding, no cover-ups, no being nice. Just truth.

Author Jacobs confesses a white lie he told someone to avoid hurting that person. Blanton’s take on it: “Your lie is not useful to him. It’s simply avoiding responsibility. That’s okay. But don’t bullshit yourself about it being kind.”

Blanton’s got his own site, books and programs. He’s ex-Esalen, about 60, and a gruff hedonist, among other things. Easy to be put off by, but hard not to like. Here are some of his own words:

The heart of the message of Radical Honesty is that we can come to recognize each other as beings in common. We do this by being honest and by demanding honesty from others. This is the fundamental faith of both Radical Honesty and it’s corollary religion, Futilitarianism…Futilitarianism is about the futility of any belief whatsoever…

…beings who relate as beings, one to another, can work out the problems that come from having minds and personalities and cultural and religious and traditional differences, since those differences are all bullshit anyway! We can change how we live together by acknowledging the being we are, (nothing mysterious or mystical—just the sensate being in the body), as the universal context in which the mind occurs. We recognize each other as alike. One pathetic, mind-controlled, culturally conditioned pitiful sonofabitch, anywhere in the world, looks just about like another. Underneath all that confusing and alienating bullshit we are beings in common.

Who I am, is a present-tense, noticing being, and the idea of me—my case history and culture and values and beliefs—is secondary to my fundamental identity as a noticing, present-tense being. I can see, at the same time, that this is true for everyone else. I relate to everyone else as equals in this way. I relate to these fellow beings by being true to my own experience. This being-to-being relatedness is what allows me to make compassionate, collective decisions with my fellow cripples—I mean human beings.

Think you can justify not telling your spouse something? The white lie to your subordinate? The truth about your attraction to your office-mate?
Go ahead, test it. Check out Blanton.

You may not agree with him, but you’ll have a helluva hard time justifying why you don’t.

0 replies
  1. Geoffrey
    Geoffrey says:

    Here’s my question to you, only because I caught myself doing it.  I just checked a box saying that I had read and agreed to the terms and conditions, when I knew I had never read it.  How about you?  I’m guessing there are other regularly occurring lies that people do. 

  2. Geoffrey
    Geoffrey says:

    Actually, the funny thing is, the whole "fine" answer meant a whole lot when I went through chemo.  In fact, people asked "How are you?" with a healthy chunk of concern in their eyes.  And, Charlie, if you are in San Diego, let’s do lunch.  Seriously.

    Oh, and what’s the deal with your "About" section?  If you want to be transparent, why don’t you tell us about your fmaily, your house, and your biggest personal challenge that you are trying to overcome?  I read your blog.  What reason is there for me to trust you?

    Of course, what reason do you have to trust me?  Zero.  I might have made the whole chemo thing up.

  3. Brad Blanton
    Brad Blanton says:

    Charles–Thanks for the quotes from my website you shared with your blog gers. I read some of your past writings and I particularly like this quote from the Peter Jennings article you wrot. "I’d like to give some props to humility. Let’s bow down to the fact that basically we don’t know diddly—particularly when we think we do. Let’s celebrate humility, which leads to honesty, and then perhaps to curiosity. Humility is the starting point that makes all things possible. Certainly that’s true for trust. "

    Radical Honesty is a repeatedly humbling experience, even though people frequently accuse me of being an arrogant jerk, which I am. Thanks for the conversation.  Brad Blanton

    Please enter your comment

  4. Shaula Evans
    Shaula Evans says:

    So Charlie, are you saying that you endorse/support/agree with Blanton?  The way you’ve written this post, I can see what Blanton thinks, but I’m not as clear on what you think, or why you’ve chosen to highlight  soi-dit "Radical Honesty" here on your blog.

    You wrote: "You may not agree with [Blanton], but you’ll have a helluva hard time justifying why you don’t."

    On the contrary, I disagree strongly and find it easy to explain why.

    There is a trend here in the US to substitute selfish "honesty" for kindness / compassion / sensitivity.  I find it vulgar, destructive, cruel and short-sighted.  Also deliberately naive.

    There are also some big trust issues buried in the post that I’m disappointed that you overlooked. 

    In the specific stereotyped example of the wife who asks "does this make me look fat," Brad Blanton is treating the question as if language was merely denotative.  It isn’t.  Much more than meaning,  language is about social bonding, social ritual, social convention.  In ignoring the realities of how language works, Blanton is either simple or deliberately disingenuous.

    The question isn’t about how the clothes look.

    The questioner is really conveying: I feel insecure / I want reassurance / do you love me / do you still love me / can I count on you / when I feel endangered, is it safe to TRUST you?

    Ignoring the subtext of the conversation allows Blanton to be deliberately cruel, under the guise of being "refreshingly" honest.  How boringly, pathetically juvenile.  And how destructive.

    If you are being honest with someone for your own benefit (sense of superiority, power play, dominance, need to distinguish yourself from social conventions), also be honest that your motivation is selfish.

    And if you are being unexpectedly honest with someone for their benefit, then find a way to convey your message with sufficient compassion and social grace that your listener can hear you, or you are accomplishing nothing productive and much that is destructive.

    The honesty of Radical Honesty seems to be a one-way street. While there is a surfeit of honesty directed aggressively at others here, I don’t see as much honesty about the motivations of the speaker. 

    Nor do I see, in your post, what education, credentials, spiritual advancement, or powers of extrasensory perception make Mr. Blanton a qualified and competent arbiter of "what is best for (all) others."  Or clearly, for that matter, of what constitutes kindness.

    Radical Honesty reminds of the cult of Ayn Rand in the following way: Randianism is all well and good, but I don’t trust the self-interest of most people I know, particularly Ayn Rand fans come to think of it, to be all that self-enlightened.

    I know a handful of ordained Buddhists who are pretty much completely honest — and they pull it off in a gentle, compassionate way that doesn’t damage everyone and everything around them.

    However, I don’t trust the actual motiviations, or the disrection, of Radical Honesty proponents any more than I trust the Ayn Rand fans.

    There is a lot of celebration of cruelty and humiliations of others in the US.  I’d file the "radical honesty" movement, based on its portrayal here, under that category. I’d be more inclined to call it what it is:  Social Boorism.

    And I don’t see how an agenda of boorism can enhance trust.

  5. Geoffrey
    Geoffrey says:


    If I understand you correctly, you don’t think blurting out the first thing that comes to mind is a good idea.  It’s also called filtering.  I wholeheartedly agree.  Sometimes, blurting is lying, in that it is your emotions speaking, not what you actually believe in a detached sense. 

    The wife example is an interesting one.  I’m not sure that marital interactions are applicable in the business world at all times.  If I am a consultant, and someone asks me what I think of an idea, it is my responsibility to be honest.  Note I did not say brutally honest.  Brutality is never good.  I think you made a great point regarding motive.

    Based on Charlie’s response, should we say, "how are you, insomuch that I don’t really care, but I’m making small talk in the aisle"? 

    This reminds of Jim Carrey in Liar Liar. 

  6. Shaula Evans
    Shaula Evans says:

    Geoffrey, I’m delighted you’re still watching the comments here.

    Let me counter your "how are you" example with another.

    During the several years that I worked in Japan, it was amazingly common for Japanese people to come up to me, and to non-Asian foreigners of my aquaintance, and say (in Japanese or English) "you use your chopsticks well."  In fact, it is so prevalent that it becomes a running joke in the foreign community.

    The thing is, you probably are horribly maladroit with your chopsticks.  What the Japanese person *means* (vs what he or she is saying), is "I’d like to open up a conversation and possibly an acquaintance with you.  I’m firing a safe first volley of an innocuous compliment."

    For foreigners, once they’ve "cracked the code" of what’s really going on (a code in this case not just of language and social norms but also cross cultural differences), it becomes much easier to play the social game, because now you know what’s going on.  (It also doesn’t drive you crazy or weird you out half so much.)

    In the same way, "How are you" isn’t often so much an actual inquiry as a way of greasing the wheel of social interaction. A functional translation might be: "I’d like to engage with you as a fellow human being so we both feel like we aren’t isolated in the universe.  I’m using the ritual social forumulas of this culture so we both know what to do."

    I have worked in a number of different countries and cultures, and I can attest first hand that NOT knowing what the social rituals are is really disorienting and alienating, and it is hard for others to understand you, or for that matter to trust you, when you don’t know how to play the game.  (I can also attest to how dehumanizing it is to spend extended time in a culture where you’re regarded as subhuman, and no one touches you, or makes eye contact, or makes even "meaningless" small talk like "how are you."  The social deprivation of it is devastating.)

    I don’t personally find anything wrong with dancing the little social dances that hold cultures together, including the culture I was raised in.  When it comes to the trust side of things, rather than do away with rituals, I’d rather try bringing some authenticity and presence to them:  going back to your example, to care about how people are when I ask, and to listen to the responses.

    I think "how are you" works just fine as is. 🙂

    And as for the chopsticks compliment, I never did manage to figure out why that particular set phrase caught on across Japan — but if anyone else knows, I’ve been curious about its origins and popularity for years.

  7. Charlie (Green)
    Charlie (Green) says:

    Wow…I guess the subject of honesty kicks up a lot of passion.  What a great discussion.

    I haven’t settled on just what I think on much of this either, and this is helpful to me; but, in the spirit of being honest, let me share what I’m thinking.

    Thanks to Brad for coming into these pages and sharing.  And Brad, I’m delighted you picked the segment you did from my past blogs, it is precisely where you and I overlap. 

    To Geoffrey’s invitation to me to be more transparent–see, here’s the thing.  I don’t think my main objective here on this blog is to be trusted.  In fact, I studiously avoid referring to myself as trusted, or as a trusted advisor, and I recommend (frequently) to others that they don’t do so either.

    My bigger objective is to stimulate conversation about trust.  If I can do that by being open and transparent, I will do, and have gladly done, just that.   But just volunteering stuff doesn’t necessarily do that.

    There’s a reason that 12-step programs offer anonymity, and it’s not so people don’t know who you are–it’s so you don’t know who they are, so you can’t judge them by whether they’re Irish, or postal workers, or Presbyterians.  You are forced to confront them nakedly, as humans, soul to soul.  And I would argue that kind of honesty often counts for more.

    If it’s useful for people to know what I look like or where I live, they can find that out, and if it’s useful I’ll volunteer it.  But it’s far more likely to be boring to the reader.  I think the success of a blog like this depends a bit on presenting ideas and letting people, to some extent, form their own mental pictures of the writer. 

    Shauna, thanks for being honest about your feelings; no doubt where you stand!  And you raise some tough issues.  I for one certainly agree with you about the need to be sensitive to others.   (I have also written in this blog about my own dim view of the self-development of Ayn Rand fans).

    But I do not think it’s so simple, and I urge people not to sell Mr. Blanton short.  He can speak for himself, and I hope he will, but let me add my two cents.

    In my own consulting work, I find a reverse cult–the cult of dependence and blame, a tendency to argue so strongly that everyone needs to be nicer that we end up not taking responsibility.

    This is what I hear in Blanton.  A promise to never lie to you.  A promise to be as hard on himself as on anyone, and never to lie. 

    When someone says, as you put it, I feel insecure / I want reassurance / do you love me / do you still love me / can I count on you / when I feel endangered, is it safe to TRUST you?

    My view is that there are times when the answer has to be as you put it, Shaula.

    But there are equally a whole ton of times–more and more in business, and more and more in the rocky marriages and relationships I see–where the answer has to be otherwise.  And my answer isn’t just Blanton, it’s also someone like Anthony deMello, a Jesuit from India.

    And that answer sounds like this: if your self-esteem depends on my approval, I find you needy, dependent, undependable and irresponsible.  I cannot find fulfilment in a relationship who is dependent on me, except for my dog.  And he’s a dog.

    People who fall into the habit of needing approval from others tend to attract those who need to be needed.  And you end up in a world with two kinds of people–addicts and co-dependents.

    I think Blanton and I both see the world to a great extent this way; the hardest thing to see is that we are all "sinners," to use that terminology, and that the best we can do is to be honest about our own condition and to be generous toward others.  Generosity toward others certainly includes kindnesses–but it doesn’t include co-dependence.

    Under pretext of being nice, for all the reasons Shaula mentions, we end up playing the role of Col. Nathan Jessep, Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men–"the truth?  You can’t handle the truth!"

    When we make the judgment that somone else can’t handle the truth, we rob them of their power, responsibility and dignity.  When they ask us to rob them, we have a choice to make–is it charity?  Or is it complicity?  This is also the meaning of Blanton’s quote from the Esquire article, don’t kid yourself that lying is doing someone a favor.

    As to the social fabric and the glue that binds, there is a lot to it, of course.  But, if only to be provocative, let me suggest that the two most elaborately ritualistic societies in the modern world–arguably Japan and England–are also tradiitonally less socially mobile.  There are trade-offs.  There is no obvious good or bad to me here.  Americans typically find the Dutch to be "brusque" or "rude" at first; later, the same traits appear to be "direct" and "honest."  Midwesterners transplanted to New York undergo the same conversion.

    We can all only speak for ourselves.  I urge anyone interested in this to read the Esquire article and Blanton’s materials.  For myself, as I said at the outset, I’m still sorting all this out.   But the older I get, the more I value the courage to face what I think and feel, and the ability to know precisely what someone else is thinking and feeling. 

    I like to think we can do that without necessarily being rude.

    A good friend of mine says, "brutal honesty is an oxymoron."  The question is, how do you interpret that?

  8. Dylan
    Dylan says:

    I’m glad you mentioned oxymorons, Charlie.  ‘Futilitarism’ is not quite an oxymoron, but it is a very strange idea.   If you believe that all beliefs are futile (pointless, not worth having etc) then you’ve logically acknowledged that at least one of your own beliefs is futile—namely your belief in futilitarianism.  In this one respect alone, I agree with futilitarianism: it is a futile to believe in. 

    There is no good evidence that futilitarianism is true, and plenty of everyday experience to suggest that it is false.  If you are a beliver in futilitarianism (‘a futile’?), there’s no point in arguing about this, since you apparently believe that all beliefs equally don’t matter anyways.  I could go on, but your readers must either get the point already or believe that all points to be made are equally pointless, in which case they can’t logically agree or disagree with anything at all without apparently contradicting themselves in the process.

    I completely agree with Shaula when she writes that language is inherently connotative and that intentions always matter in ethics and language.  The belief in radical honesty is almost as easy to disagree with as the nonsense of futilitarianism. 

    Looking at Blanton’s website, I notice that this belief in radical honesty is closely related to psychotherapy, where I imagine it is most successful as an approach to relationships.  Within the social parameters of a psychoanalyst’s office, a patient probably expects unflinching honestly—why else pay good money for psychotherapy? 

    The error in radical honesty lies in assuming that all situations are just like psychoanalysis.  I agree with your sentiment that you’d like to see more transparency in many types of public communication, but until everyone who I hope will trust me is also paying me to be brutally honest, I’m keeping certain opinions to myself.    

  9. Lark
    Lark says:

    Futilitarianism, as espoused by Blanton, is a philosophy worthy of our attention… because, if practiced in spontaneous interaction, it’s so damn liberating!

    Think about it. By letting go of all but the moment – that split-second of time which is the here-and-now – is freedom personified. When we’re trapped by self-delusion in who we think we are, as defined by ourselves first… before, secondly, wasting valuable resources and precious mental energy… working overtime… to sell this idea of ourselves to others, is precisely that moment we recognize the futility of self-defeating behavior… which only puts us at cross-purposes with what we so desperately wish to engender – namely, trust in the truth… and trust in each other.

    And it’s at this very instance… we can laugh and laugh… at ourselves!

    Quite an apt name for a book title too. As the author describes it – radical honesty – we can also be freed from the esoteric jargon one more -ism often calls to mind – just one more word to add to an oversized collection we could well do without.

    Put better, and to recognize its truth more fully, is this notion of futility. It’s simply futile to be less-than-honest – and so counter-productive. Conversation always begins with that conversation we have with ourselves… well before engaging in conversations with others…

    … Because all change – and honesty – must necessarily start from within. Presentism, utilitarianism, authoritarianism… like a few other isms I’ve read about, tend to unmask and discombobulate us if we allow it too.

    Why anyone would be satisfied… with constantly distorting the truth of his own tom-foolery… is unreasonable as can be. It’s a futile exercise indeed to expect cooperation in collaborative arrangements when we deny the truth of our game-playing, is it not?

    Trust is earned much more easily when we admit from the get-go the futility of maintaining such foolish illusions, social niceties and conventions. The best relationships live in language, heart-to-heart talks, and co-produced efforts… facilitated by uncommonly honest dialog.

    True, we shouldn’t try to steamroll someone who’s built up walls around themselves, and are slow to accept us, let alone, trust us. And why the hell should they? Like all animals in the natural world, we need a little time to run, fight, or first sniff things out.

    And, truth be told, we’ve built our own monuments – beset by our own boundaries – and we’re wrapped in the trappings of personality and stagecraft.

    Great teachers, like you, like your readers, are all around us… and we’re all attracted to trust and truth-telling – if only we care to drill down and admit it. In fact, just recently, I learned the five predictable stages of any relationship, as taught by Paul and Layne Cutright, are:

    • Attraction
    • Power Struggle
    • Cooperation
    • Synergy
    • Completion

    It’s at the power struggle stage that trust becomes the prickly predominant issue, though it’s an important consideration throughout the relationship. Here is where most relationships fail, since this is where assumptions, hard-and-fast rules, framing and contextual issues, authoritarian constructs, customs and traditions, and false beliefs… bedevil all of us. Synergy is a lot like getting into an ergonomic flow… which exponentially grows that collaboration… into a systematic growth vehicle – one which rewards its mindful participants into the future.

    But then these are just words, aren’t they? Language will work for or against us – just give it its pesky due – you know, words are not always the stuff… of our finest… or wildest… dreams.

    Because investing in a quality relationship worth having seldom just happens, the sooner we can merge our communication pathways… into a give-and-take of radical honesty… seems like good practical advice… and makes perfect sense, besides.

    Personally, I love Blanton’s metaphors of the village idiot and the noticing being. As I fancy being one myself, I take sincere  selfish pleasure in coaxing it out of others!

    [I, likewise,  savor your lines… "I’d like to give props to humility… " Now tell me the truth, Charlie,  when do I get to borrow your script?]

    Does this mean I’m above it all or beyond self-delusion? Of course not. It merely means I’ve chosen to not be so hard on myself and others… because I want to stay cognizant… that we’re all stars… on the same bill… in this same movie – as one cast.

    Does this mean I need to check myself before calling a spade a spade when I see fit? No again. I see no point in being a phony… to spare someone… or some unfeeling, unthinking corporation… with the same inalienable right as an individual… their false pride… or their illusion… they are somehow my superior. Nor is it my intent to be unkind. We must agree to disagree from the start – it’s the stuff of what cooperative and honest engagement is all about – if we’re to be honorable about our expectations… of altruistic intention… straight across the board.

    However misunderstood, all of us are geniuses or budding geniuses, experts and those not-so-expert (ignore-ant) about many of the same inconsequential things – at the very least, we’re all magnificent works-in-progress – and it makes me comfortable and happiest to engage others in similar spirit.

    Meaning and intent is best understood when commonality of purpose is known and allowed to flourish. Short of anything else, we continue to languish in isolation. As for who or what we are… it’s largely pretense anyway. Hell, just the act of opening our mouths puts our language under a microscope, and to paraphrase Alan Watts, “subjects us all to a very cruel hoa&xrdquo;.

    In spite of our play-acting… the rain will fall when it must… and only truth will tell. So why let our circumstances and pageantry bring ruin upon our day? Always expect the unexpected and make the best you can make of it – moment-by-moment – by freeing yourself of unnecessary baggage at every turn.

    This, for me, is the great lesson to take away from everyday one-on-one experience: "I’m completely made up and so are you. Now that we acknowledge it, how can we make history together? Do you believe we have a chance to make something good happen? Like right now?"

    There’s a kind of tyranny in words… and language… when we insist our jousting and one-upmanship knows no common ground. But who are we to deny one another the freedom to employ it… in all our ways with words… if all is fair… in love and war?

    Bucky Fuller believed we live in a time when cooperation cannot be put off much longer if we expected to save ourselves from each other. And the primary tool at our disposal for accomplishing this convergence of thought?

    [The plain and spoken word… Hmmm… me thinks, perhaps, I’d best define our terms a little more scientifically! Am I to lie down with the dogs of conflict and war – content in these futilitarian beliefs – and just rot away… divorced from the ultimate futility of it all? Are words… all by themselves… really all that useful?]   

    If we never stop learning about ourselves and each other, new experience becomes our constant ally and newest best friend. The energy one might derive from a mastermind group, for example – a place where the dots can be connected and connections shared – is exhilarating… and fills us with a sense of playfulness… earnestness about our busy-ness… and fun.

    By being childlike and full of wonder about the world – in all our circumstances – we remain… forever young at heart…

    … And maybe a little less sure about ourselves – despite our sincerity.

    Thanks for introducing this colorful writer to us, Charlie. He’s not so hard to fathom in the least; nor is his –ism so hard to grasp.

    When we’re honest about the truth, we need look no further than the ends of our noses.

    I can actually see mine… and believe it to not be so pretty… but I trust you’ll permit me… to grin and bare it!

    [Do forgive me my wordiness – I’m bereft of my senses, lack all manner of decorum, and have nothing better to do. You’re O.K. with that, right? ~lol~]


  10. brad blanton
    brad blanton says:

    Damn! I couldn’t read the last part of your entry and it is the most interesting so far in this discussion. Could you post the last section again?  brad

  11. Maureen Rogers
    Maureen Rogers says:

    Well, I’d be radically lying if I said I’d gone over and actually read Brad Blanton- other than his first comment. (At least on my screen, his second comment comes through looking like a bunch of wingding symbols.) But I’ve got to say that I don’t think I’m going to much like the idea. Without coming across as the kind of Pollyanna who would make me gag, there’s something about asking yourself whether your message is "necessary, kind, and truthful" before you lob it at somebody. (Now I must gird my mental loins and away to read Blanton.)

  12. Shaula Evans
    Shaula Evans says:

    I just came across this old Dilbert cartoon and my reaction was, "Oh look: radical honesty."

    I’ve kept thinking about this post, and I want to revisit this discussion, but in the meantime, enjoy the cartoon.

  13. flawedplan
    flawedplan says:

    I don’t know how Dr. Blanton handles the strawman arguments against RH delivered by know-nothings who haven’t even read his treatise, but I have all but given up proselytizing due to the tedious and bad faith attitude represented here. Funnily enough the opening post is the most fair and accurate review of the silly Esquire article I’ve seen so far. But that’s how it goes, we cling to dishonesty as if our life depended on it.

    Radical Honesty is not a self-help program, morality or belief system. It’s education, a learning tool for enhancing awareness,  concerning  human interaction, and reading the book creates new abilities of perception. What you do with your comprehension is up to you. 

    I haven’t gone to any seminars so I don’t know if it is technique-laden, but the book is  an explanatory text that answers questions about why we lie, and how lying harms us. The one relational technique that comes through the writing is Martin Buber’s I-Thou dialogic. Not exactly what you call light weight, but then you’d have to read the book to make an informed opinion. Funny how that works out.


  14. flawedplan
    flawedplan says:

    I don’t know how Dr. Blanton handles the strawman arguments against RH delivered by know-nothings who haven’t even read his treatise, but I have all but given up proselytizing due to the tedious and bad faith attitude represented here. Funnily enough the opening post is the most fair and accurate review of the silly Esquire article I’ve seen so far. But that’s how it goes, we cling to dishonesty as if our life depended on it.

    Radical Honesty is not a self-help program, morality or belief system. It’s education, a learning tool for enhancing awareness,  concerning  human interaction, and reading the book creates new abilities of perception. What you do with your comprehension is up to you. 

    I haven’t gone to any seminars so I don’t know if it is technique-laden, but the book is  an explanatory text that answers questions about why we lie, and how lying harms us. The one relational technique that comes through the writing is Martin Buber’s I-Thou dialogic. Not exactly what you call light weight, but then you’d have to read the book to make an informed opinion. Funny how that works out.


  15. Shaula Evans
    Shaula Evans says:

    Charlie, I have been thinking about this post since you first published it, and in the interim you have kindly published other articles that provide me with the tools to articulate just why this (still) bothers me.

    In your post on Twitter some time ago, you provided the following framework for evaluating communication effectiveness:

    Effective communication requires, three prerequisites:

    • Veto power,
    • Permission, and
    • Relevance

    I find that soi-dit Radical Honesty fails all three of these tests.  The Radical Honesty model doesn’t give the unwitting recipient veto power, it doesn’t seek permission, and while the speaker may feel this is all very relevant, the recipient doesn’t necessarily see the relevance. 

    Your second post that connected the dots for me was your recent post about self-orientation and the Trust Equation, How to Increase Trust by Getting Off Your "S".

    Radical Honesty seems to have an extremely HIGH self-orientation; the speaker is adopting this approach for his or her own benefit, without regard for the people who fall in its blast radius.  There may or may not be benefits to the recipients of this communication style, but the recipients clearly are not the prime concern.  If speaking partners were the prime concern, there would have to be a permission / opt-in factor, and there’s not.  Without an extremely low self-orientation in play, Radical Honesty comes across as Radically Self-Serving and Radically Self-Indulgent.

    Verdict:  "Radical Honesty" may work as one-way communication, but it doesn’t measure up as effective two-way communication.

    The lack of permission / veto-power, and the extremely high self-orientation are what has fundamentally bothered me all along. 

    If anyone wants to practice inward-pointed radical honesty, OR practice radical honesty that asks permission first on every occasion and constantly earn and re-earns the trusted advisor privilege of such intimate and unvarnished communication, then I’m all for it.

    Thanks for giving me the framework to explain why this one has stuck in my head!

  16. Charlie (Green)
    Charlie (Green) says:

    Wow. Nicely done.

    For me, what you’ve done is to integrate the strong objections that several readers here had, with my instinctive sense that there’s something to like here.

    I’m thinking that my attraction to Blanton’s idea is his energy for authenticity–part of the “I” factor in the trust equation that says “I’m not hiding anything, there is no artifice between you and me.” Which I think is great.

    But as you point out, the “S” factor–self-orientation–is the critical other side of the equation. You can suit up and show up, but if it’s just all about you, you can’t expect others to join the game.

    Quite an elegant exegesis, Shaula, many thanks.

  17. flawedplan
    flawedplan says:

    Oh god. I don’t want to hijack the thread, but you couldn’t be more wrong about this practice. It is so not anti-social or narcissitic, it is the opposite, deeply concerned with building and maintaining (the hard part) genuine intimacy. Before reviewing a philosophy you must know what it is, and I can say for a fact it has helped many people find their way, many who would be considered too damaged by personal and institutional abuse to trust others without the radical honesty framework (self included). Just pleas read Radical Honesty and Practicing Radical Honesty
    before reviewing
     further. Brad Blanton is a saint.

  18. zike
    zike says:

     The Blanton’s book have just arrived to Spain.

    Very curious. It just remaind me the early begginings of the Gestalt therapy as the followers of Fritz Pearls misunderstood his ideas.  Barry Stevens ("Don’t Push the River") showed how one could de-programmed himself …

    The point is how to clean up your mind-life respecting the others. Authenticity does not mean "I have to say everything I think", thats is incontention, logorrhea, and lacks of sensibility about  other humans beings.

    As far as I know RH is the best way to convert your social life in a very clean , authentic relationship … if you can keep anyone near you, anyone that could accept your selfish way of  life, with no other guide that your own point of view. 

    Anyway it is not a new idea. There are  old age Pearls ideas… without the presence of Fritz   to explain them "now and here"

    Budism shows authenticity without so much psycologism and, in the other hand,  much love and respect to other lives.

    Good luck !

  19. Lara Johnstone
    Lara Johnstone says:

    I been in the RAdical Honesty community now for over ten years. In many ways meetig Brad saved my life… a real bitch, cause I was really looking forward to fucking off to my next life.. 😉

    I can tell you it totally changed my life, particularly in how I view and respect myself, for being totally 100% true, not only to myself, but to all I meet.

    It is very clear that many people who commented have not made any effort to understand the ideas behind Radical Honesty, and have little understanding for what Brad means by Futilitarianism.

    No worries.. but their arguments appear to be an attempt to prove thmselves ‘right’, when Radical Honesty is not about ‘being right’, but about being honest and transparent.

    The normal never ending rat race of being ‘right’ and ‘superior’ to the next one, and being ‘liked’ for being ‘right’ and sayiing the ‘right’ things etc… just slowly dissapear as you get more into radical honesty and mix with others who practice it…

    And slowly life becomes a new adventure, not about being ‘right’, but about listening and sharing and being totally free and spontaneous.

    At the end of the day, Radical Honesty is about FREEDOM, total 100% FREEDOM to allow yourself to BE WHO YOU ARE, MOMENT TO MOMENT..

    But I wouldn’t try it, or immerse yourself in it, unless you really really want to, becuase if you are doing it out of obligation or some kind of story to ‘be right’ or so on.. then you will not be willing to set aside your beliefs about ‘being right’ and just immerse yourself in experimenting with being free and spontaneous…


  20. Brad Blanton
    Brad Blanton says:

    Charles– I was just writing on my autobiography today and out came this sense of having been violated with regard to trust…so in case you want to put it out there for the sake of discussion…here it is
    (Everybody gets so romantic and teary eyed about Obama, including myself. But I am waiting. I know millions of people like me are waiting. Is the spirit going to remain and recur? No one can know. But we can for God damned sure know whether it is or isn’t there when it is or isn’t. I knew it was over when Clinton came up with “don’t ask don’t tell” and I think we will know that hope is over when gutless folks, like most of Barack’s appointees, keep steering the ship of state to avoid the shoals instead of accomplish the goals. If Barack can’t be like Jim Bevel, and apparently he can’t, the honeymoon is over and the marriage is on the rocks. No use to start bad habits of compromise before one has been fully self expressed.

    I wrote that a few months ago. But it is the first day of 2010 now, the day of this writing, and he has violated those of us who trusted him. The wait is over. He has finally demonstrated he is a corporate slave, proud that the Massah has promoted him from the field to the house, and never ever he gonna question slavery again, long as he can be de boss and take care o the Massah, and those of us po folks, white trash and black, who were almost hopeless when he showed up can go ahead and be completely hopeless now. That motherfucker is not a dude he is a dud. No balls. No guts. Nothing but phony glory.)


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