Your Honesty Budget

Kira Newman runs The Honesty Experiment:

30 days. Complete honesty. Can they survive it? — Follow their journey and read about honesty in life, love, and business.

She interviewed me recently. One excerpt:

Honesty Experiment: How do we solve this conundrum?

Hanson: I think the first thing you’ll have to come to terms with is wondering why you think you want to be otherwise. We’re clearly built to be two-faced – we’re built to, on one level, sincerely want to and believe that we are following these standard norms – and at the other level, actually evading them whenever it’s in our interest to get away with it. And since we are built that way, you should expect to have a part of yourself that feels like it sincerely wants to follow the norms, and you should expect another part of you that consistently avoids having to do that.

And so, if you observe this part of yourself that wants to be good (according to the norms), that’s what you should expect to see. It’s not evidence that you’re different from everybody else. So a real hard question is: how different do you want to be, actually? How different are your desires to be different? . . . Overall, you should expect yourself to be roughly as hypocritical as everybody else.

I later recommend compromise:

It would be simply inhuman to actually try to be consistently honest, because we’re so built for hypocrisy on so many levels. But what you can hope for is perhaps a better compromise between the parts of you that want to be honest and the parts of you that don’t. Think more in terms of: you have a limited budget of honesty, and where you should spend it.

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