The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Does Honesty Triumph At The Expense Of Truth?
February 19, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Context, Culture, Cunning, Empathy, Insight

So recently I saw 2 quotes that I love.

First this one …

Then this …

I suppose what links them is they capture societies awkward relationship with ‘truth’.

And I’m talking about all of society, not just the folks who work in adland.

Of course, I appreciate that truth is [often] relative, but the fact is, unless we’re in a situation where we’re fighting for our lives, we generally find expressing or hearing bold, blunt truth pretty uncomfortable.

We talk around it, we use words to soften it, we attempt to hide it under statements like “it’s complicated”.

This isn’t purely because we’re a bunch of hypocritical beasts – though, as I’ve said many times before, we are – it’s also because our brains are designed to protect us [rather than learn for us] so when we find ourselves in a situation that has the possibility of danger, it responds in a way it believes will help us achieve the most positive outcome … which is often cautious honesty rather than unfiltered truth.

Yes, I really am saying that honesty is different to truth.

In my opinion, while the intention is the same, the delivery is different.

Of course part of the reason for this is because people are generally caring and compassionate souls who don’t want to cause upset or harm to others – and that is a beautiful thing which should never be dismissed – however it could also be why we sometimes blindly believe or find someone utterly refreshing when we hear them talk in a way we perceive is blunt and confident, despite the fact we also sometimes find – as in the case of Donald Trump – it’s has nothing to do with truth – or even honesty – it’s pure egomania and an attempt at manipulation.

We say love is complicated … politics is complicated … filling in a tax return is complicated … but to be fair, that’s only because underpinning all of those things is a subject that is the most complicated subject of them all. Truth.

29 Comments so far
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I find honesty being different to truth an interesting concept. I can’t disagree with what you’re saying and yet it also feels wrong. Maybe it is because truth represents stating indisputable facts that all informed parties agree with whereas honesty refers to truth, but only through the lens of the individual who has stated it. Which means I’ve just agreed, not disagreed with you. I’ll come back to you. Honestly.

Comment by Pete

what the fuck are you going on about? are you still bitter because that calculator was really a computer. crybaby.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s your honesty but not necessarily the truth. ; )

Comment by Pete

You sound like a lawyer and we all know the last thing they deal with is honesty or truth. Ha.

Comment by Rob

You work in advertising. No one believes what any of you say.

Comment by Bazza

But I like the quotes.

Comment by Bazza

And I like how you have repositioned yourself from the ad industry despite having worked in it and – to a certain extent – still work with it.

Comment by Rob

It’s nothing to do with compassion, people don’t tell the truth because they don’t want to face the consequences of that.

And this is a cultural phenomenon. In many countries, being brutally honest is the norm. Are they less caring? No, of course, not.

Comment by john

i dont understand what the fuck your first sentence means. and i dont agree with your second fucking sentence either. sure the brits are all fucking hidden feelings but theyre not the fucking exception. even the dutch, who make campbell look like mary fucking poppins have some social fucking grace towards others.

Comment by andy@cynic

I wasn’t talking about the Dutch – but there are many, many countries where blunt honesty is the norm.

As for my first point, I meant that people don’t give true assessmens because they don’t want to deal with the fall-out of doing that (familial splits, broken “friendships” etc etc).

Comment by john

What’s with the Dutch? An old boss of mine once warned me about them, too. He said “If you’ve not been screwed by a Dutchman, it’s only because he hasn’t got around to you yet.”

Curious. Must be something to do with living under water, right next door to the Germans …

Comment by Ian Gee

The Dutch want to get to the point, not beat around the bush. We once were in a pitch for a Dutch company and we were the last agency presenting after a long day so we went in and showed one slide explaining our strategy and said we could either spend 40 minutes explaining how we got there or go straight to the work.

The client – also Dutch – asked if our leave behind document had the background information included, to which we said yes, so he said we should proceed with showing the work.

We were in and out within 25 minutes and were awarded the business within 3 days.

I like the Dutch.

Comment by Rob

So basically you’re agreeing with me, but disagreeing with the reasoning behind it.

Do some people not tell the truth because they don’t want to set off a bomb they could get hurt by? Absolutely. Do some not tell the truth because they don’t want to set off a bomb others will get hurt by? Yep. Two sides of the same coin isn’t it?

Comment by Rob

I’m sure you’ll agree that the key to addressing such nuances is not to panic.

Comment by john

That was a good pitch.

Comment by Pete

so says the man who tells clients a spade is a fucking shovel. the only saving grace of this fucked up post are the 2 quotes. so borrowed fucking interest in other words.

Comment by andy@cynic

Funny … a client said to me yesterday how blunt I was. But he was from Northern England so he said it with an air of happiness, not discontentment. I think.

Guess I’ll find out soon.

Comment by Rob

he was happy because he knew he is going to fire you from his business and never have to put up with your shit again. im so fucking jealous of him right now.

Comment by andy@cynic

OK, so this post is going to make me think about what you’ve said all evening. While I sit here deliberatating with myself, that second quote is an excellent insight into human behavior. I will be referencing that to a lot of people in the future.

Comment by George

“Deliberating with yourself.”

Is that what married men call it these days.

Comment by Billy Whizz

dirty, filthy bastard.

Comment by andy@cynic

“The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you.”

Comment by john

Surely it is the implications of the truth that will not be realized until people believe you?

Comment by George

Not my words – the words of Bill Bernbach.

Comment by john

I once had to do project with some Germans. We needed a clear the air meeting after month because we were being honest, but dressing it up in irony and politeness, while they were being honest by being very blunt.
We were pissed off because they were too direct, they were pissed off because they took what we said at face value
Really good points Rob.
I’m working on the launch of a fitness smartwatch – which is in truth a fashion accessory masquerading as a performance tool, you know like the millions who wear Nike and never run. Because, as you say, people like to even pretend they’re getting fit, rather than doing something about, like the millions of unopened copies of Brief History of Time I guess.

Comment by northern

Is it pink?

Comment by john

It didn’t come in pink I’m afraid

Comment by northern

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