What's Radical about Radical Honesty

A few weeks ago, I talked to a friend at a party. 

We talked about Radical Honesty. He seemed to really like the idea. I went to the bar and got a drink. I saw him again a few minutes later. He introduced me to his friends and said:

“That’s Marvin, he teaches brutal honesty!” – Ouch!

A couple days later, I talked to one of my writing clients on the phone.

I told her about my weekend and that I was teaching a Radical Honesty workshop. She said:

“Yeah but isn’t that too aggressive this extreme honesty?” – Hhmm!

I could go on and on with more examples...

The common misconception about Radical Honesty 

When people hear Radical Honesty, they seem to imagine an excessive sharing of thoughts. If you search the internet, you’ll find plenty of articles from people who didn't really get it (or never wanted to get it to have ammo for sensational articles like “I think you are fat”).

A lot of people confuse the word radical with extreme, brutal, or aggressive honesty…

… and some mis-take the work we do to justify being assholes
… or manipulate by saying “I’m just being honest here”
… or to constantly share their thoughts

Well, none of that is Radical Honesty.

The word radical stems from the Latin word radix. This means root.

And that’s pretty much what we are after – the core-level honesty.

Now, you might wonder what it means to be honest at the root or core.

One good way to explain this is called the Awareness Continuum.

The Radical Honesty Awareness Continuum

At my workshops, I always say that Radical Honesty means to be honest about your own experience, right here and now. We use a simple model to make the point. 

At any given moment, you can be aware of 3 things

… you can be aware of your own body – the inside.
… you can be aware of your surroundings – the outside.
… you can be aware of everything inside your head – the upside-down. 

The latter is the least reliable!

Yet it takes up 95% of most people’s attention.

Our goal is to speak from our current experience, like meditating with other people, out loud. 

We are not after global Truth. We are not after philosophical discussion about the Truth. In fact, we don’t really care all that much about surface level thoughts. We don’t care about arguing. We care

… more about the things you normally withhold
… about the ways you play small
… about how you filter what to say
… about your secret agendas
… about what you feel in your body, right now

One of the goals of practicing Radical Honesty is to break free from obsessive thinking.

This happens when we combine awareness of the present moment with a specific, direct way of speaking. By relating our own truth to others in a simple way, and feeling our feelings, the “mind” often calms down. 

Another way to view Radical Honesty 

My good friend, fellow Radical Honesty Trainer, and psychologist Sebastian James recently added an interesting perspective to what is radical about Radical Honesty.

We speak about things that are usually suppressed, like money, sex, health, and feelings, especially those that we bottled up and put in the shadow, like anger, sadness, and fear. 

What do you imagine about Radical Honesty? Did you have similar misconceptions?

Share them with us in the comments.