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24 Examples of Honesty

Honesty is the practice of being forthcoming and accurate with information even where this is difficult. Although this is a clear virtue and character strength, there are many grey areas, subtleties, social complexities and moral dilemmas that surround honesty that are worthy of consideration. The following are common types of honesty.


Self-honesty is a process of introspection whereby you try to see yourself in a realistic light to defeat delusion, wishful-thinking, denial and other untruths one tells oneself.

Negative Self-criticism

Self-honesty can be overly critical whereby you fail to look at yourself in a positive light.


Candor is the practice of offering information when it may be useful even if it would be easier or safer to hold it back. For example, telling your boss that you feel there is a flaw in their thinking.

Dumb Questions

One element of candor is to admit when you don't understand such that you are unafraid to ask foundational questions even if everyone else appears to understand. This demonstrates self-confidence as you know that you are intelligent enough to understand if something was explained well such that you quickly admit to what you don't know.

Estimates & Predictions

Estimates and predictions are honest if they feel right to you. For example, an optimist may make wildly improbable predictions of their future results that are still honest.

Fake it Till You Make It

Fake it till you make it is the common requirement to pretend that you know how to do something in order to gain experience. For example, telling your boss that you can absolutely manage a team with no problems when you know that you are in fact a little over your head. This isn't completely honest but is perhaps required to achieve certain goals in life.

Jumping Through Hoops

Jumping through hoops is the process of completing a dull and arduous process because it has large benefits. This can involve some degree of insincerity. For example, a job interview where you tell the hiring manager how interested you are in the role and the company when in fact you aren't particularly interested.


Tact is politeness in communication. This often requires holding back information that isn't kind or helpful. For example, not telling someone that they gained weight since you last saw them.

Saving Face

Saving face is the practice of helping others to avoid embarrassment. For example, by not criticizing them strongly in front of others. This is expected in many cultures.

Subtle Communication

Subtle communication is the practice of being honest in an indirect way. This is common in a culture of saving face whereby criticism is often cryptic such that you need to be able to read cues and hints. For example, a neighbor who praises your child's piano skills who is really hinting that the piano is loud and disturbing their peace. People who are more familiar with candid cultures often find it difficult to read such subtleties.

Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is the practice of framing negative truths in order to be more positive. For example, telling someone you love their work before pointing out a minor flaw in it.

Too Much Information

Too much information is the practice of telling people private details of your life that they don't want to know.


Praising others excessively and saying things you don't believe in order to impress others. For example, participating in groupthink whereby you say what you think people expect you to say as opposed to what you actually believe.

Shy / Reserved Behavior

In some cases, people aren't candid because they are shy or reserved whereby they are unlikely to offer information even if it may be helpful to someone. For example, a person who strongly prefers keeping to themselves who doesn't tell a stranger they have food on their face.


Countersignaling is a type of false modesty or humility whereby you downplay yourself in order to show your strength. For example, a rich privileged person who says they are a socialist such that they heavily condemn the upper class and social systems that sustain their position. This is likely to be insincere.

White Lies

White lies are mild levels of dishonesty that an individual feels are justified by the possibly negative impact of disclosure of a particular piece of information. For example, telling someone you understand what they have said when you haven't listened to them at all.


In some cases, you have no obligation to disclose information when requested or expected because of a right to privacy. For example, if your employer asks you invasive questions about your lifestyle or health. In this case, a lack of candor or perhaps a white lie could be defensible. For example, if your employer asks if you went drinking last night and you say "I had a pretty quiet night actually." In this case, if you demanded privacy, you would remain honest but your answer would be obvious.

Brutal Honesty

If imperfection is the lens
That you see me through
Don't be surprised if someday soon
That lens stares back at you
~ Tom Shear, Assemblage 23, Human
Brutal honesty is the poor practice of expressing opinions about others that are colored with pessimism, skepticism or general dislike of people.


A lie is complete dishonesty whereby you misrepresent the truth in order to promote yourself or save yourself from disclosure of an inconvenient, embarrassing or incriminating truth.

Virtuous Lie

A lie can be motivated by some greater good such that it is more defensible than a lie that is motivated by selfishness. For example, if you are hiding fugitives from some unjust and inhumane persecution and you lie to a military officer to save lives.

Lie of Omission

Omitting information can be the equivalent of a lie. For example, if you know that your best friend is at a party with her boyfriend and her parents call and ask "have you seen her?" Answering "no" may be technically correct but is a lie of omission because you know what they mean and didn't answer the real question.

Telling the Truth

Telling the truth is the moral principle that you are honest, even where it is very difficult such that it may have negative repercussions for you. For example, admitting to a wrong doing or failure that someone has the right to know.

Fair Play

Honesty isn't just about information but can apply to action as well. For example, following a reasonable rule in an honor system.


Credibility is a reputation for being candid, honest and accurate. This can be quite valuable such that people around you take everything you say seriously and respect your character.

Character Building

This is the complete list of articles we have written about character building.
Honor System
Risk Taking
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