Home » Blogs » Conflict without Casualties » Openness Before Honesty

Openness Before Honesty

How do you feel when someone starts a sentence with “If I’m being totally honest,” or “May I be honest with you?” Are they lying the rest of the time? What have they been hiding?

It’s a setup. It’s a justification for them to share their opinion or feedback about you, while keeping themselves conveniently out of the hot seat.

Don’t Confuse Honesty With Openness

Many people confuse honesty with openness. Honesty, if it only focuses on others, is not open at all. Neither is it open if you are honest only about information and opinions. Authentic openness means being honest with others about you too. How are you feeling? What are you worried about? What is important to you? What keeps you up at night? Why do you care about this?

One reason many people choose honesty over openness is because they are afraid of being vulnerable. Openness levels the playing field by showing others you are human too. It creates a safe place where people can talk about what really matters, be receptive to feedback, and struggle together towards positive change.

People who resist openness generally prefer to use unhealthy competition, intimidation, manipulation, blaming, or power plays to get what they want.

We’ve been tracking this phenomenon for six years with thousands of people. Using our Drama Resilience Assessment, we measure three areas resiliency against drama, including Openness. Top leaders consistently rank lowest in Openness. Yet the research overwhelmingly shows that this is the most important leadership skill for building trusting, collaborative, and productive relationships. Our clients who develop their openness experience the greatest benefits.

Try This

Instead of; “If I’m being totally honest, I’d say you don’t have a chance for a promotion.”

Try; “I care about our relationship and I’m uncomfortable saying this. I don’t think you will get the promotion.” 

Instead of; “Well, I’m just being honest.”

Try; “I want you to trust me so I’m willing to answer any questions you have about this.”

Things to Ponder

  • What beliefs do you have about vulnerability and openness?
  • What can you do to be more open about your feelings, needs, and motives?
  • What do you need to change in order to be more vulnerable and build trust?
Openness Before Honesty

Nathan Regier

Nate Regier, PhD is CEO and Co-founding owner of Next Element, a global leadership communication firm specializing in building cultures of Compassionate Accountability®. A former practicing clinical psychologist, Dr. Regier splits his time between writing, speaking, training, consulting, and developing Next Element's global network of certified trainers. He is co-developer of the Leading Out of Drama® training and coaching system for positive conflict, and has authored two books on drama and conflict; Beyond Drama: Transcending Energy Vampires, and Conflict Without Casualties: A Field Guide For Leading With Compassionate Accountability. Nate is a certifying master trainer in the Process Communication Model®. He lives in Newton, KS, is married and has three daughters. Learn more about Conflict Without Casualties here.

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Regier, N. (2019). Openness Before Honesty. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Mar 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.