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Total Honesty

Submitted by on August 23, 2012 – 12:00 amNo Comment

Author: JaneCole

Every self-help book takes pride in espousing the high ideal of open honest communication at all times. Today, many practitioners are reporting that relationships have broken down because of too much honesty. What are we to do?

The first thing that we can do is stop treating honesty as if it were an isolated attribute that exists apart from a context. With looking at a context we either have too much or too little honesty. What we need is appropriate honesty. Appropriate honesty does not mean spilling the beans at every opportunity, not does it mean telling people the awful truth “for their own good”. That is a self-serving good intention. It is an over-compensation for feelings of inferiority by being super-truthful. This implies we have some superior knowledge of what the truth is and it is our responsibility to correct others by straightening them out. Super-truthful people make their views known and correct others base don their self-righteous standards of “should, musts, and always”.

Discretion does not mean clamming up either. We do not prevent disaster in the future by avoiding unpleasant communication in the present. It takes courage to tell the truth in a discreet manner, as in “pardon me but you just knocked over my coffee.” It takes no courage to look the other way and pretend it did not happen.

Self-respecting people do not play these destructive games. They have attributes that immature people do not have. They have mature judgment, self-respect, and the power of choice. They know how much honesty is appropriate in a given situation. This knowledge enables them to be discrete, which means they have the ability to decide how much or how little they wish to reveal about themselves. They are not compelled to flaunt their knowledge for over-compensatory purposes, nor do they suppress information for fear of what other might think. They have the courage to live according to their own standards and expectations.

Sometimes it is appropriate to express your anger openly and honestly, but other times it is not. Self-respecting people know the difference. When restraint is appropriate, they do not suppress their anger behind a smiling facade and deny that they are angry. They are consciously choosing not to reveal their anger at the present time for legitimate reasons of their own. They may choose to express their anger later, after all of the company has gone home or they may choose to write an angry letter. They can choose to mail the letter or to tear it up. That is discretion.

Do not let other people control your power of choice. If they insist that you be open and honest “for your own good,” identify their request as mischief. It does no need to be done and is a self-serving trap on their part. You can choose to say, “I know you want the best for me and I appreciate it, but I’ll be just fine” or “Thanks for asking, but I would rather not” or “I never thought of it that way, I’m sure you’ll think of something” or “You got a real problem there, I don’t know what to tell you” or “I trust you will figure it out”. As a worthwhile human being, you have the right to set limits about what you will and won’t say. When someone tries to penetrate or overcome your discretion, do not go into a power struggle over who can make who understand. You can choose to deflect the attention away from yourself instead. You can use the following focusing questions to expose the underlying purposes of their mischief:

-“I wonder why you want to know that.”
-“How do you see this situation?”
-“What are you trying to achieve?”
-“What is the worst part?”
-“In the past you have used these things as ammunition against me. Are you planning on doing that again?”
-“Could it be that you are trying to control me with guilt?”

Do not try and make people understand you. You do not have the power to do it anyways. It only sets you up to fail. The more you try to get them to see things differently, the more you fail to change their mind, which will build to anger and resentment. Your life goes on whether they understand your motivations or not. You can choose to be discreet about your opinions. When someone says, “Your son is a lazy bum,” you can catch yourself about to play into this mischief. You can choose to agree that the other person feels that way. We can always agree with feelings, regardless of the facts. You can say, “I agree, That’s how you feel.” So you are able to set appropriate limits on their false accusations. You are aware that the issue is not your son, but their attempt to provoke you and gain power and control over your behavior. The other person is being mischievous by seeking the power to provoke you into an argument.

As a self-respecting person, you are free to respond discretely, to decide how much or how little you wish to comment. This is a risk, but the act of making something happen in the present requires us to take a risk. This is a risk because you are allowing others to take responsibility for their own false beliefs. However, taking appropriate risks will give you feelings of accomplishment, success, confidence, maturity and self-respect.

Aaron Karmin MA, LCPC. Through Roosevelt University he holds an advanced certification in stress management which involves teaching six mind-body techniques which enhances relaxation. Aaron has worked at all levels of mental health care from inpatient to outpatient, private to community, not for profit to Fortune 500 executives. He is a highly effective guest lecturer, group therapy leader, and individual therapist who is able to discuss a variety of topics including: Anger Management, Leadership, Relaxation Techniques, Communication Skills, and Goal Setting Strategies.

Aaron recognizes the need for flexibility and creativity to address the mind and body and uses solution-based instructions to promote a healthy lifestyle. His approach to anger management focuses on increasing frustration tolerance and impulse control by understanding triggers, identifying physical cues, recognizing thoughts, considering consequences, implementing solutions, choosing behaviors, and promoting expression. When individuals feel in control of their situations and their lives, their depression and anxiety are replaced with feelings of security, confidence, competence, identity, responsibility, belonging, and self-respect, which is the prerequisite for success at home and at work.

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