How Honest Can You Be? (1)

 I was speaking with a guy who wanted to make some major changes in his life, he had gotten to that place where he automatically either reviews his life to make some adjustments or remain in the same spot and end up a failure.

 One of the major changes I advised on after a bit of conversation was that he needed to become a totally honest person. I’m not saying he had been a dubious character, but he had a bit of challenge reporting facts and interpreting realities. Anyway I got a bit tangled when he asked me a question that at first sounded ridiculous but on closer scrutiny made sense. His question was "how honest should I be?" Totally straight forward question you say, I thought so, but when he explained that he had a girlfriend once whom he always fought with because she felt he was always dishonest. He on the other hand felt he was not being so. Their difference in opinion came from the fact that he considered intentions and feelings in judging what could be allowed to pass for honest, while she upheld that honesty was void of emotions and sentiments. Let me explain, he felt it was ok if your friend sampled a new dress of which she has been raving about, and she looks like a rhesus monkey or an under dressed clown that you don’t go “OMG, you look horrible” but rather you go “well not bad, but..” He felt that putting resulting outcomes and people’s feelings into account was important in determining what is honest.

Honesty means ‘not hiding the truth about something’. It is associated with such synonyms as; frank, direct, open, blunt, and straight. Honesty is one of the most treasured human characters (next to cute and cuddly). It is valued more than money and will give you the kind of respect in society that even wealth will not give you (even among the Ibos who value wealth). Everyone agrees that an honest person is the person you want on your team. Problem is we don’t know how honest we are expected to be.

 In every relationship, the golden rule, especially for women, has always been ‘don’t lie to me, be honest with me (meanwhile she wants you to tell her she’s the most beautiful woman you know, be real, have you seen the people on TV shows these days),’The problem I see is that we don’t always like the truth, or do we? Consider these scenarios;

SCENE ONE: My friend Tolu loves being charitable; he’ll pay the school fees of a stranger,  before he got a car he’d offer to pay the bus fare of his seat neighbor, then after he got a car he’d go miles out of his route to drop off a stranded folk (your kinda guy, I know). Anyway Tolu is now married to Timi a conservative and private sweetheart, who can accommodate Tolu's love for charity and all, but not when it begins to encroach on family life and time. Also important is that she can raise a small tornado when upset, so when she calls Tolu on the phone to know why he is not home for dinner at 7pm, Tolu’s challenge is how to tell her he is on the other end of town dropping a colleague at home. So he just tells her there is a mad hold-up and he’s stuck in traffic and should soon be home. His other option is to tell her where he is, forfeit dinner and a peaceful night. What she does not know won’t kill her He concludes.  

SCENE TWO: I have a ruthlessly honest senior colleague. She wears her thoughts on her sleeves and calls it like she sees it. When you want to know the truth, ask Pamela. Problem is, she leaves many a broken heart on her trail. She once told David in mid sentence, during our office meeting “you won’t get far if you don’t do something about your ‘is’ and ‘was’. Go back to school if you have to”. She tells strangers they have a bad dress sense and last year when Mrs Ngozi lost her husband to liver disease, she blurted out to Mrs Ngozi's hearing “it was all the alcohol he consumed that killed him”. No one goes to ask Pamela's opinion first. Everyone wants someone a little less honest, at least to start with.

Little or much, how much honesty do you think we should exhibit?  When we need to lie to a sick person to get them to take their drugs, or want someone to tell you "you tried" and not "you sucked" after your presentation at the office, even though you...(Get my point).  
 Let me know what you think, we’ll discuss your comments in “How honest can you be (2)?” 

Continue... How Honest Can You Be? (2)

"Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles /"

Kanayo Aniegboka

Kani is a writer, entrepreneur, blogger, public speaker and an all-round knowledge junkie who likes to view life from different angles.


  1. Tolu is not being truthful no matter how nice his intentions are, pamela on the other hand is a bit tactless and careless with words, as blunt and direct as it appears.
    someone once said shut up if you have nothing nice to say.but i on a good day will say you don't look nice in that dress but these days i am learning to say.maybe you should try another outfit.he is a fool that says all that is in his heart
    Balance is the key to life.

  2. Ok Jedidiah you contradicted yourself a little bit. Tolu is not been truthful and Pamela is being 'too' truthful? You're saying Pamela shouldn't speak when it's not nice? which means she shouldn't speak if it's going to hurt people. but isn't that exactly what Tolu is doing? Where exactly do you draw the line? too honest, too dishonest?

  3. How honest can I be? Hmmmmm let's say I am the very straight talk person, i do not mince words when airing my views. I am naturally not one to be diplomatic, simply blunt and sometimes crass! I tell it as it is, I hate deceiving myself. So question how honest can you be? Some people like to be told the truth and nothing but the truth while some simply love to be flattered. I would say know your audience and better still the sensitivity of the person you are communicating with. Women for sure enjoy the sweet talks rather than the short, direct and concise talk, it's usually too much of a bitter pill to swallow .All in all some diplomatic approach in passing some honest matter across will not be a bad idea without necessarily telling a lie, show a little kindness in your honesty but if you are not able then don't just say anything, with that you will not be held accountable to your wits.

  4. What an interesting topic?kani this is actually real life issues and I must commend you on your work so far.I enjoy your piece mostly your thought line in real life matters,its quite helping,educative and inspiring.Good work!Now back to this question; How honesty can you be?In my opinion I would say that one can be honest about something and yet not cause the other person to feel bad about the situation.I think it lies in knowing how to pass what you feel without any prejudice to another persons feeling,personality,or whatever--here I mean saying the right thing in a the most constructive way.that way ure able to communicate the truth without causing harm. The truth be told,the good book will alawys teach us to consider other people before in whatever we do and do others as you would want them to do to you!I think that helps us know how best to commmunicate the truth.

  5. @christine, @jedidiah, are you saying it's ok to lie sometimes? I don't think it's ok, whether in relating with a sensitive person or not. The truth is best. Timi cannot say she didn't know Tolu was like that before they got married. Or did she like every woman think he'd change? Oh please! She married him, her choice. The consequencies she has to live with. Tolu on d other hand, knows that he's a little bit out of order that's why he feels d need to lie. If he truly felt he was right, he wouldn't think of lying to her. They're living in a charade. Tolu should tell her about his movements no matter what. Timi will see how bad it is and together they can reason it together and find a balance. That's why they should b honest so that they can work it out. Honesty is always best, so that poeple can see where/when u need help. Lying to cover a bad habit only makes it worse.

    Secondly, Pamela like some uncle i have, is who she is. And people should realize that. So when she opens her mouth to speak, brace up! That's what we do with my uncle, u can't change who she is, so she says d truth no matter how harsh, isn't that better than friends who lie to u?

  6. @integrity, it also goes the other way, Tolu should have known Timi didn't appreciate his excessive 'giving'. He cannot say he didn't see that before marrying her. They should have settled d matter before getting married. Young people seem not to realise that before u get married, u ought to sit down and plan d marriage with ur partner, draw up a business pla (put it into writing). Where to live, businesses, children, everything! Things might change of course but it gives the both of u a conscious direction. years ago when i told my wife we had to write a business plan for the marriage we were about to enter into, she looked at me like i was crazy. but 13 years later she's enjoying d fruits of our business plan. The same way u plan a business u're abt to start, risks, employees, everything, u plan putting ur patner's personality into consideration. If Timi and Tolu had done that, there wouldn't be dishonesty involved in their marriage. They're headed for d rocks the way they are. Imagine Timi discovers d truth, how will he convince her he just went to drop of a co-worker, not a girlfriend?

    As for d question, how honest can u be? I'd say it depends on the context. In business, u have got to be dishonest to beat competition out there, in marriage, years of experience has thought me that honesty will save u no matter what it is, with ur superiors, tell them what they'd like to hear when it's personal but in business, tell ur superiors the truth, with subordinates, tell them d truth, there's a reason they look up to u, make it relevant, with ur friends, depends on what kind of friends. Life-long friends, damn straight truth, new friends, wait till u know them well, acquintances, say the truth, u got nothing to loose. It all depends on the context but never in marriage. Be straight with ur spouse.

  7. i would go with straight talk but what happens when u could be whacked in the head for speaking the truth? Truth is, I would be totally honest but just until i have to save my head. Tolu, smart guy understands that there are better times to play 'hero' than with an angry wife. I think he agrees with me that there're better causes to die for. *Just saying*

  8. Hahahahahahahahah, jane you are funny. i fell from my chair laughing. you are wrong though, you say what you say cos you are obviously not married. i'd like to hear your opinion when you do.

    1. No, i say what i say because i know me. i am that angry wife any day but only with a club in hand [whack in the head]. *if you get what i mean*

    2. yeah, we women make it more difficult for men to be honest with us. but that is not an excuse...

  9. Hi everyone and thank you all for sharing your views, very interesting and I must say intelligent. So let me see, @Jedidah, I agree with Tyon, you did contradict yourself, but I understand your dilemma, Christy and Julian think honesty is relative, but the problem with this is that it makes truth relative too, so truth depends on our feeling not on reality, and thank you Julian for the compliment. Integrity is absolute (pulling no punches) but as much as its true that they knew their flaws before they got married, the question before Tolu is “what must I do this night to have peace?” opening up to Timi would cause an unnecessary volcano, what would it benefit him to lose sleep for something so trivial and also, he hates hurting his wife, but believes so much in what he considers his good deeds (what to do?). Come on Bassey, you are all over the place, what makes it ok to lie in business but not in marriage? And acquaintances deserve less honesty than friends? Very interesting view, yet it makes honesty very very relative, the problem now is who determines when you should apply which type of honesty, someone else may argue that you lie to your wife, to keep her happy, and tell the truth to strangers cause you owe them nothing. Nneoma (lol) I knew some married person would attack you, and ifeoma did it with finesse, but I do understand your point. Some people knowing themselves just don’t want any heartache, so would rather prefer not to know.
    Thank you all, let’s watch and see where this takes us.

  10. @kanayo @Tyon there is no contradiction in what i have said.@ integrity i never implied that one should lie sometimes.
    All i am sayin is that pamela can find a way to put the truth across nicely and constructively like Julian said.

    Dishing out unsolicited advice and making harsh "truthful" sentences is uncalled for infact it is called being rude and impolite so pamela will be referred to as rude before being referred to as honest. But it is possible to be both polite and honest.

    The balance is in knowing when to speak and when to be silent

  11. Calm down Jedidah! I think we get your point, and you give a very good and balanced view, i give it to you, but for stretch, don't you think that keeping silent is a form of being dishonest, since the aim is the same, to keep the person from a hurtful truth. Also what would someone like Tolu do, who does not have the option of silence.

  12. Hmmm thanks i do agree that there occasions with no silent option but in pamela's case no question was asked i mean who asked her what killed her colleague's husband. of course there are times one should speak up honestly whether not a question has been asked.
    Tolu has to tell his wife the truth irrespective of the consequence besides the reason he lied was cos he knows well that his action won't go down well with his wife. what she doesn't know won't hurt but if she finds out it will kill the trust in their relationship, for someone like me, my suspicion mode is turned on.