"Honesty isn't the best policy when it is driven by frustration, resentment, hurt, or anger because it is likely to trigger frustration, resentment, hurt, or anger in others."
~ Adapted from Brené Brown

“Honesty isn’t the best policy when it is driven by frustration, resentment, hurt, or anger because it is likely to trigger frustration, resentment, hurt, or anger in others.” ~ Adapted from Brené Brown

When Honesty Is NOT The Best Policy

This is just one of many important concepts I have found in Brené Brown’s book, “Dare to Lead,” and I have chosen it for this week’s quote and comment because I believe it highlights a problem that can get in the way of our being effective with others. For example, have you ever heard someone say, “Hey, I’m just being honest,” or “I’m just telling the truth here,” just before they deliver some critical comment? It’s as if the fact that they believe what they are about to say is true makes the statement valid or takes away any responsibility they have for its impact, which is rarely positive. In other words, rarely does the person receiving the “honesty” say, “Oh, well, in that case, thank you for sharing. I feel so much better.”

Those of you who follow my Life from the Top of the Mind philosophy know that the reason for this ineffective way of communication has to do with how the brain processes information. The middle brain, which gets information first, tends to have a negative bias, because being worried, anxious, or angry in the evolution of our specie did indeed help us survive. Unfortunately, this scanner, processor, and router part of the brain has not evolved as fast as our society. As a result, it tends to misinterpret negative situations as dangerous, and throws us into the part of the brain designed to deal with danger which is the lower brain, or brainstem. This results in some people’s so-called “honesty” being driven by these lower-brain emotions of frustration, resentment, hurt, and/or anger, which then triggers the lower, resistant brain of the recipient.

The first solution, therefore, is to ensure that when we are giving information to another, we are not feeling frustrated, resentful, hurt, or angry. Instead, we must take responsibility for who we are and how we are communicating before we can expect others to take responsibility for how they perceive it. Secondly, if we truly believed that the other will benefit from this information, we need to frame it in a way that they will hear as valuable. We need to understand what is important to them and blend this with what is important to us so that we create solution-focused conversations that are both honest and effective.

This is what my system is designed to teach… how to shift to the clear, confident, creative part of the brain so that our “honesty” is not being driven by negative emotions, or the lower brain, and then how to engage others in such a way that they shift from the resistant brain to the receptive brain, and are, therefore, more likely to hear what are saying as valuable.

In other words, we must be accountable for the emotions that are driving our communication so that our honesty is truly honest and helpful… not, as Brené Brown describes it, “shame, anger, fear, or hurt masquerading as honesty.”

– Happy New Year, Bill

~ All the best, Dr. Bill