How To Be More Honest, Even When It's Hard

Don't be afraid to say what's true.

Last updated on Feb 25, 2023

man with hand over heart swearing to be more honest Krakenimages / Shutterstock

Have you ever had those times when you knew what you wanted or needed to say but somehow didn’t get the words out of your mouth? As adults, we need to be accountable. Being accountable requires integrity — that means we must be honest in our thoughts, words, and actions.

When one of those links is lost — for example, our words — we can no longer hold up our role of integrity for ourselves, the people we love, or our community. Which is why we feel so bad when we don't speak out against social injustice or be honest when asked, "How are you doing?"


We’re letting ourselves and everyone else down in a very subtle but very real way. So why aren’t we telling the hard truth and making honesty one of our goals?

We often don't speak the truth because there’s a risk involved. Holding back what we feel or think typically comes back to a fear of some kind. What are you really afraid of? Give this question careful thought.

RELATED: Why Your Relationship Will Never Work If You Aren't Being Honest With Yourself


Maybe your fear concerns hurting someone else or, at the very least, their feelings.

After you deliver what you have to say, they may not like you anymore. They may reject you and all you stand for, including your shared good times.

fear of being honest

Perhaps you suspect your manager is endangering your life with a drug habit, and speaking out puts you at risk of losing your job. Or you might be concerned about losing a friendship if you exert your independence and say you really don’t like going out every Friday night with the group. Announcing to your carpool group that you can’t stand riding with them because you get migraines may put you at risk of losing social status when you no longer know the latest gossip.


Another fear that comes with being honest is of being wrong. What if you’re embarrassed because you speak your mind only to learn new information contradicting your opinion?

Even though many of the examples above involve another person, at the very root of each is a personal fear: If you speak the truth and reveal who you truly are and what you believe and stand for... what then?

The bigger question is — what happens if you don’t speak up? If you choose not to be honest?

When you don’t speak up, you are letting yourself down. You deny that you — who you are and what you stand for — matter. By not speaking, you tacitly allow others to say they are more important than you. Furthermore, lying causes stress and harms your brain and body!


speak up for yourself

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Get to the bottom of your fear, and you’ll find it much easier to speak up.

At times, however, it will undoubtedly still be difficult to find the right words, so here is a guide to help make it easier to start being more honest in a more authentic way.


How To Be More Honest

1. Be kind.

It's hard, to be honest, but if you're delivering the news in a kind, respectful way, there's no reason to fear what will happen if you say what's on your mind.

2. Stay positive.

When bringing up a conversation with someone that isn't easy to talk about, focus on the positive situation and offer an alternative.

3. Understand that honesty doesn't have to be a bad thing.

This isn’t a war you’re waging. You live a life of integrity, so do it with style, not rancor. So don't be afraid to speak up.

RELATED: Why We Lie And How To Instantly Spot A Liar

4. Be non-judgmental when you approach someone.

You have a legitimate stance and are honoring it — just as you are honoring the other person by allowing them to have their point of view. We all have our way of getting through this world.


Live yours fully and allow others room to live theirs. Remember that your opinion is just that: your own. Own it totally, and accept that it is only your opinion. Everyone else has their own right.



5. Own your words — and only yours.

Don’t parrot or take on anyone else’s. We can only be accountable for ourselves, so say what you have to say and let it go.

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6. Only speak up if you are providing value to yourself in some way or to the listener.

What is “value”? Would you, or the other party, be able to benefit without you speaking up?

7. Follow this acronym for posting on social media: T-H-I-N-K.

  • T: Is what I’m saying true?
  • H: Are my words helpful?
  • I: Am I being inspirational in any way?
  • N: Is this necessary to say?
  • K: Am I being kind?

If you haven’t been totally honest, it may be difficult to find the words to speak up initially, but once you do, honesty and living your life with integrity will become the only way you will accept to live. If you don’t speak up for yourself, who will?

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Jan L. Bowen is an author, keynote speaker, thought leader, and facilitator with over 25 years of successful corporate leadership who specializes in helping leaders find their balance.