Thursday, September 20, 2007

tempting experiment

Tonight I read the MOST AWESOME article.

An Esquire journalist conducted an experiment based on the book Radical Honesty. I read this book three years ago. The premise is that you always tell the truth. This removes the stress of lying, and also establishes deeper relationships.

"He says we should toss out the filters between our brains and our mouths. If you think it, say it. Confess to your boss your secret plans to start your own company. If you're having fantasies about your wife's sister, Blanton says to tell your wife and tell her sister. It's the only path to authentic relationships. It's the only way to smash through modernity's soul-deadening alienation. Oversharing? No such thing. "

My jaw dropped when the journalist pulled this one, halfway through his experiment:

I have a business breakfast with an editor from Rachael Ray's magazine. As we're sitting together, I tell her that I remember what she wore the first time we met -- a black shirt that revealed her shoulders in a provocative way. I say that I'd try to sleep with her if I were single. I confess to her that I just attempted (unsuccessfully) to look down her shirt during breakfast.

After a few days, he even applied it to the author of the book himself:

In his book, Radical Honesty, Blanton advises us to start sentences with the words "I resent you for" or "I appreciate you for." So I write him back.

"I resent you for being so different in these e-mails than you were when we met. You were friendly and engaging and encouraging when we met. Now you seem to have turned judgmental and tough. I resent you for giving me the advice to break that old man's heart by telling him that his poems suck."

By the time I finished the article, I was at the highest level of excitement I've reached in many weeks. Every sentence I wrote over email or IM for the next hour ended with an exclamation point. (Poor Stuttgart... who emailed me during the zenith of this fervor.)

I am sorely tempted to do this experiment in my social life, for a week. I won't do it for anything work-related, since obviously I need to keep confidentiality. And I would also keep any secrets told to me in confidence by others. But I think it would be interesting to do for the rest of my personal life.

I told one of my best friends, who replied:

I resent you for wanting to create even more self-centered drama in your life, for ostentatiously chasing some sort of ridiculous ideal. But mostly, I selfishly resent the idea because I would never have the courage to do it. Actually, I hope you do it, because I want to see what happens, but I'm kind of hoping it's a horrible disaster that leaves you chastened and validates my cowardice.

Awesome! If that's the kind of candid conversation I'll be having, sign me up right now!


ArC said...

So... the idea is that the social constructs of polite fictions, etc, that pretty much every successful society has created are wrong-headed?

Colour me doubtful.

Oliver said...

Will you speak with new candor only to friends? Or will you try this technique with strangers?

Anonymous said...

Just because you have a thought does not mean it is a right one to have. We are governed by base human instincts. Our high road controls them and filters what should and should not be satisfied. Why expose the low road? The human mind is a dynamic system and it is often unclear if the thoughts, feelings are the right ones to have in the moment.
Why would you wish to validate them prematurely with this candor?

Anonymous said...

I wish guys would be that straightforward with me! I'd love to know who's been trying to look down my shirt and who isn't interested!

John said...

A.J. Jacobs is a hilarious writer for Esquire. I really enjoyed his article a few years ago on "My Outsourced Life."

Your friend's comments were hilarious and were well written.

I look forward to reading your experiment firsthand, if not seeing it in person!

Ryan said... i'm in no hurry to try this, but good luck! hope your friendships survive. :P

Anonymous said...

Frankly, its been a long day. It's 12:30 in the night - but still I'll write this comment. Because...because, it is almost like you put up this post for me.

I don't know where to begin - but somehow, I have morphed into being secretive. _SUPER SECRETIVE_ . I don't tell people anything. Because I am afraid of what they will think. Maybe, it was when I told my friend my grand plan for higher education and he laughed it away. What would you do in research? I could never understand why he didn't understand - MY DREAMS! I certainly dropped the friendship but I somehow have stopped telling people about me...or anything about me. Things have gone so worse now that until recently, my parents didn't know how much I earn. I didn't (or don't) tell my friends that I have a great job.

Somehow, I have been trying to pull out of this secretive mess that I am in. No wonder I don't have very fulfulling relationships...BECAUSE I DON'T SHARE.

Now, I'll stop before this comment looks like a postsecret post!

Thank you so much for this post.

Niniane said...

re: most recent anonymous.

Wow. Thank you for writing, and good luck. I'm glad at least one person is getting some usefulness out of my experiment.

You know I mean this in earnest, since I'm only telling the bare truth! :)

Anonymous said...

I think there is a ginormous gap between saying everything you think and being functionaly honest. Hiding one's thoughts must be a terrible burden, but speaking completely unfiltered places a burden on other people. I think there is more value in kindness than in honesty, especially the sort of egocentric honesty displayed in these examples, which seems merely an excuse to insult others. I don't think it is ok to gain freedom at the expense of others.

ArC said...

but speaking completely unfiltered places a burden on other people.

That's exactly the problem I had with this concept as presented by the Esquire article, but I wasn't able to boil it down so succinctly.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure the burden is as high as all that. And it removes the burden of having to second-guess what someone else is really thinking.

It's interesting that most people's reactions to the idea are "don't, you'll hurt other people" or "don't, you'll cause a scene", not "don't, you'll upset me". For me, there's a tiny bit of "don't, you'll bore me with tedious chatter", but otherwise I'd love to know everyone's real thoughts.

I don't want to share mine, though. I'm not ready for that kind of vulnerability.

The best application of this concept for most people is probably as an instructive experiment, not actually a lifestyle. Try it for a week, realize some things about you and the people around you, get over some of your fear.

Anonymous said...

To bring this high-brow discussion down a few pegs, here's a link to a Jim Carrey film on the topic of always telling the truth:

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (9:45 AM), do you really want every skanky guy on muni to tell you that he's honestly trying to look down your shirt, hrr hrr hrr, and for that adorable cute guy to tell you that you bore him?

What's the threshold for "sharing" in this way? I'm reminded of that question, "which do you prefer, justice or mercy?" Perhaps you (Niniane) are a "justice" person. I think the world needs more mercy.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind this among friends, and I especially do not think it is a bad idea in sentences that start with, "I appreciate" or "I resent". But being assertive and using "I" statements when doing it is hardly radical.

There is a vast difference between, "I resent you for laughing at me in front of my friends" and "I appreciate the curvature of your ass and would like to fuck it." One of them is an attempt to communicate, the other, among people who are not already intimiate, is an attempt to intimidate and objectify.

metal said...

It seems to me that if the obvious solution is not being used, theres a reason why.

I think that at some point in our lives, all we did was tell the truth.

I'm hungry. I'm sleepy. I didnt do my homework. I dont want to apologize. I'm not sorry. Yes I drew on the wall. Yes I broke the lamp.

Then authority figures come in. Do your homework. If you dont apologize you're grounded. As punishment for breaking the lamp, no dessert. Stop complaining or I'll send you to your room. etc etc.

At some point we realize that its better to not say things.

These may not all be the best examples, but I'm sure you get the point.

At least in my case, for everything I dont say, theres some memory or some prediction based on other peoples lives that bad things will happen, there will be consequences.

Of course the paradox of this situation is that we all supress our comments and emotions because at one point or another, someone failed to supress there own comments towards us.

nisa said...

I think I saw in SCRUBS - Dr Cox met this woman who talks A LOT. & he said, "do you know you don't have to verbalize everything that comes out of your thought".

& I think she goes - "Hey the curtain is moving" Or something like that.

Dr Cox.. Dr Cox... you rule! :D

Honesty is a bad policy said...


Bad policy...

I never reveal anything...

And I am the only one who can call over 100 relatives and cary on a pleasent conversation as opposed to most of them who have fractured into small factions that will never enjoy the wonder that the others bring to my life...

I know they all have secrets...
I love when they tell and respect when they do not...But by me not revealing the secrets of other family members to them I learn a lot about human nature...

Better than fiction...

Should I try Using the honesty policy.

To my neighbor...

"I am really sorry that you aborted your baby because your husband was banging paid for whores, then contracted something and only told you that "he did not want another kid yet" all the while putting Zithromax and Cipro in your coffee so you would never find out that you probbly contracted the same thing that he had and a child born while you had these things would have had problems for life"

To my best friends wife...

Did you know about your husbands slush fund... His customers kick back to him for "special deals" He hides 5 to 10 thousand dollars per month that he spends on "golfing".. We use "golfing" as an euphemism for going to massage parlors. Not to be confused with "playing golf" which actually means playing golf. We use the code so that when you are around we never slip up when talking about our escapades.

To my co-wokers wife...

Did you know that while you watch little Jason for your friend, your husband is in the Marriott on March Lane fucking Jasons mom?

To my cousin...

I know that I set you you up with your husband but you have become not just fat but so obease that I do not blame him for sleeping with his secratery. I love you but now even I am embarrassed to be seen walking down the street with you.

Dear customer...

Did you know that your employee in charge of contracts demands 10% on all projects that I do for your company? I do not mind paying him... Since I just mark up my labor 20% to cover the extra work involved and possible attorney fees that may arise from such collusion


You are pastey white and your head when turned to the side like you always do for photographs looks like a preying mantis ready to eat the head of her lover.

But I find that so hot....

Niniane said...

My original post contained this sentence: "I would also keep any secrets told to me in confidence by others."

I believe this obviates the entirety of your comment.

Anonymous said...

Who said that all of what
"Honesty" knows was told to them in confidence.

Many things can be found out by simple deductions and observations.

Finding out one piece of a puzzle can bring the rest of the picture clearly in focus.

Married co-worker starts to chat up a cute person at work, dissappears for long lunchs (never ate of campus before) Both come back looking "flush" then co-worker adds a 2nd line on their cell phone = ???...

Neighbor who is self employed goes to several banks when he gets paid. Buys expensive toys and tells the wife the shiney motorcycle cost $ 7,000 when it is obvious by talking to the other neighbor who knows bikes that it cost minimum $ 35,000. Poor wife wonders if the college fund for the kids will ever be filled.

Since I drink and drive everyday should I stop the police officer every day and tell him I am sure I would blow a .20 ??

My one grandma had an inate sence of when people were not on the up and up. A great B.S. detector. She was way more honest than most..and would call them on it a lot... She had no corporate ladder to climb. Put paid a high price for her honesty.

My other grandma also had the same 6th sense honed over the long years of her life.

But she never let much out.

She also had many more people visit her on holidays and everyday for that matter.

Anonymous said...

You might consider joining the Candor Club. Also, if you get tired of this experiment, check out Danny Wallace's book about his experience saying "Yes" to everything for a year... Yes Man