Another reason to practice keeping some feelings private is so you can exercise restraint when tempted to use your honesty as a weapon. If we’re truthful with ourselves, most of us can remember times we’ve hurt or manipulated another by sharing our “honest” feelings.
You know how it’s done:
First act like something’s on your mind but only vaguely allude to it. Your partner asks you what it is. You reply that it isn’t important and you really shouldn’t have said anything in the first place. That double message will really hook ’em. When their curiosity has swelled to a fever pitch, they’ll really press you. Now you have full license and SOCKO! You share your feelings (and a lot of opinions about their shortcomings)…but you’re only being honest. If I sound sarcastic, let me temper it by admitting I am not excluded from the ranks of the guilty.
A good word to remember in conjunction with honesty is “tact.” Tact implies consideration for others. It means you have to think about what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and the consequences that might ensue. Are you going to share information that will likely hurt the other? Will the benefit from the other’s knowledge outweigh the pain that it will bring? Are you thinking of a compassionate way to share the information? Have you looked at your own anger and your desire to punish? These are all questions to help formulate tact. With tact, we have to exercise more choices. We don’t let our unconscious lead us to impulsive action while we rationalize it as honesty. We can have tact and we can have honesty too.
Also consider this: Is it really safe for you to “let it all hang out” or is this a situation where privacy can protect (you)? Do you want to give this person that much access to your vulnerable feelings? Have they demonstrated trustworthiness? Are you confident they won’t manipulate those feelings to bully you in the future?
So remember, honesty is not the same thing as openness and that the latter is a personal choice involving our privacy. Get clear about what honesty means to you, think about how you use your honesty, and practice using honesty as a means of connection and protection.