open & honest

We had a mini discussion at work today about openness and honesty – do both words mean the same?

I think that they are not. Openness and Honesty bear different meanings and implications. Openness implies the accessibility to information, while Honesty refers to reflecting what’s known to be true.

An example: I can be honest and tell you how terrible the day has been, but if I choose not to tell you because of certain reasons (not worth your time and attention, or by telling you it will only make me feel more terrible), it doesn’t mean that I’m not honest.

Some of my colleagues think they mean the same thing. “That’s why you say an open and honest conversation.” Why do you need to use both words in a sentence if they refer to the same thing? Have you heard someone saying “this book is nice, great, and fantastic”? “It both means transparency.” Hmm, you are using a new word to neutralise the meanings of these two words. “Those are only semantics right?” Nahhh darling, this is about your personal take, what Openness and Honesty mean to you and me. It’s about having a shared and common understanding of our vocabulary so our expectations are aligned.

When you say you expect honesty from you, you would think that it includes openness, and vice versa. So I have to tell you every single time how terrible my day goes.

When I say I expect honesty from you, I expect you to call A an A. When I say I expect openness from you, I expect you to tell me how many As you’ve got.

See the difference?


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