Brad Blanton: Honestly, Tell the Truth

Psychotherapist Brad Blanton says direct and honest communications is the key to building better business and personal relationships.

May 1, 2010

Think it’s OK to shade the facts, tell a white lie, or withhold information? You may consider it harmless, but author Brad Blanton says you’re unnecessarily complicating your life.

How did you decide to write a book about lying?

BLANTON: Through my work as a psychotherapist in the Washington, D.C., area, I found that lying was pervasive in people’s personal and professional lives. But lying is stressful and hurts relationships.

You’ve developed a technique called Radical Honesty. How is this different from plain, normal honesty?

BLANTON: Being honest all the time is what’s radical—and rare. Many people think they tell the truth, but they don’t because they withhold information. Have the courage to be honest and have a relationship with others based on reality. Don’t avoid the issues.

Why is it so terrible to withhold information, especially if it means not hurting someone’s feelings?

BLANTON: Because it keeps you locked in the jail of your own mind. You have to remember what you told each person. You have to think about what the person’s reaction might be, and you start manipulating information to control the outcome. Delivering the truth is easier, takes less time, and is less stressful. As a real estate professional, you’ll have more time to reach more people—including buyers and sellers—if you’re not spending time manipulating them.

But if it’s so stressful to lie, why do "we all lie like hell," as you say in your book?

BLANTON: Because all our lives we’ve been taught to lie. We live our lives by what we think we should do. In many cases, we lie to maintain an image. But that isn’t our real identity. We’re playing a game.

Aren’t certain lies worse than others?

BLANTON: Yes, but we shouldn’t manipulate the truth except for rare times—if you’re hiding Anne Frank in your attic because her life is in danger. In real estate, you can be honest by telling a buyer that a home’s wallpaper isn’t attractive, but provide advice on how to change it; or tell a client that something is a bigger problem than they think and explain how to correct it. Let them trust you by showing them how hard you think and that what you say is honest.

Sounds great, but how realistic is it to practice radical honesty?

BLANTON: Start by finding a friend. Agree to be radically honest with each other for two weeks. See how you like it.

Is there a time you regretted being radically honest, possibly during your runs as an independent for a Virginia congressional seat?

BLANTON: No, I lost, and I may have offended a lot of people by being honest. But I have no regrets.

Are there other rewards for being radically honest?

BLANTON: True intimacy. People will love you for who you are rather than for your image. Be open to the possibility of the authentic you.

If we don’t soft-pedal the truth at times, aren’t we likely to offend people?

BLANTON: Possibly, but it’s just as likely that you’ll end up losing people whom you don’t want around you anyway. You should be able to get mad—even holler—but after a while be able to laugh and let things pass. Get away from those people who begrudge you, even if it means losing business or friendship.

You’re a funny guy. Do you find that humor makes being honest easier?

BLANTON: Absolutely. I have Republican friends who I play golf with, and I’m not afraid to tell them when I think they’re being idiots. If they don’t like that, they can play golf with someone else.

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Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).