React Calmly When Others Tell You The Truth

The second strategy involves reacting calmly when hearing about things that upset you.

If you react poorly when told the truth, that is, you fly-off-the-handle, pout, sulk, act aggressively, or behave in some other unpleasant manner, you are essentially punishing people for telling you something that you did not want to hear (see Cole; Roloff & Cloven).

If you behave this way, people learn that it is not safe to tell you the truth. People learn that they should protect themselves and that it is in their best interest to hide things from you. In fact, the information that you react the most poorly to is the very information that people learn to keep from you (Millar and Tesser).

For example, if you get overly upset because your spouse had lunch with his or her ex, well if it happens again, this is one of the things that he or she will try to hide from you in the future.

When we react poorly to things we don’t like to hear we are simply telling people exactly what they need to lie to us about in the future. Reacting poorly to the truth is like providing others with a list of things they need to conceal (also see partner’s reaction).

This dynamic is very easy to see within a family setting. The person who reacts the mostly poorly to information is usually the last one to find out what is really going on.

In short, if you want to be cut-out of the information loop, react poorly and people will work hard to keep things from you.

So to get people to be more honest with you in the future, it is very important to react in calm, cool, and rational manner when confronted with things that you do not particularly like to hear.

The more calmly you deal with the truth—the more people will tell you the truth.

If you are upset by what you hear, it is ok to let people know that you are upset, as long as it is not done in a way that is overly critical, attacking, or tries to make the other person feel bad. Telling someone that you are upset by what happened, without reacting poorly is hard and it takes practice, but it does lead to more truthful exchanges in the long run (see talk about problems).

When you make someone pay a heavy price for being honest with you—they will not tell you the truth for very long.