When Radical Honesty Becomes Harmful: Identifying and Dealing with Manipulation Tactics

Have you ever experienced Radical Honesty being used against you? Have trainers/trainer candidates or other practitioners mistreated you in a workshop?

In response to my own negative experiences and feedback, I'm here to blow the whistle on how people weaponize Radical Honesty so you can recognize it when you see it and can advocate for yourself.

How do we recognize when someone weaponizes Radical Honesty?

These are all the examples former workshop participants gave me; upon reflection, I witnessed them in my own teachings and those of other trainers and RH practitioners.

They disregard your experience because you sound emotional.

The general culture of Radical Honesty implies that you have to get over all your emotions and approach conversations from an emotionally neutral place; unfortunately, that creates psychological abuse in cases of systemic failure when the change of behavior/structure has to change because it is harmful to the recipient of that behavior.

They insist you use the specifics.

In workshops, trainers ask participants to use specifics/facts in describing what they have perceived with their senses and what interpretations they made of what they perceived. It’s a therapeutic tool that, when taken out of the context of therapy, weaponizes our natural intelligence - a diverse way of making sense of the world, and limits it to our body sensations and thoughts. Usually, it is used by the trainer when a participant is resisting coaching (the participant is trying to relate in their own authentic ways rather than the rigid “I notice, I image” lens). That tool is used to gaslight and disregard the participant's experience as flawed, inauthentic, and antagonistic. When using specifics and disregarding any interpretation as “just your story” is made into the general culture of relating in all contexts indiscriminately, it ends up causing severe confusion for people because it’s unnatural and inauthentic to be relating to the world only through these rigid focus points, yet Radical Honesty is about being honest and authentic. It can damage people’s psyche in the long term because the only way to be honest and authentic is to disregard your own natural intelligence and comply with the rigid model of Radical Honesty.

They're only willing to talk to you if you use Radical Honesty language.

Radical Honesty uses insider language. The language is designed to take extreme self-responsibility for your experience. Because “reality is subjective,” and “you are the creator of your experience” - you are responsible for everything that happens to you, or what you make of it. It’s yet another weaponized idea that keeps people’s attention away from abusive, inappropriate behavior and keeps them in check through shame and guilt for having reactions to mistreatment that they now are responsible to “get over with.” You can only say I, instead of it, you cannot use but, only and, and you have to stick to “I resent you for” and “I appreciate you for.” If you feel sad, that means you’re mad, and you have to resent someone. If you’re bored or confused, that means you’re mad, and you have to resent someone. You get the point, right? You have to fit all your experiences into two sentence stems, and that’s when they take you seriously. Also, the general attitude is that when you speak, you speak for yourself, not for the other person. So when you share something important that you want to relate to the other person, they relate to you as you speak for yourself on benefit, and it doesn’t affect them. “I do me, you do you.” So while you think you’re relating to the person, they’re waiting for you to say whatever you have to say for yourself, and then they say whatever they have to say for their own benefit. It’s insane, yet that’s the general relating culture.

Everything is justified if you’re honest about it.

You can be a loud, raging, violent racist sexual predator, but as long as you can honestly share how it is personal for you, you’re forgiven. You’re even deemed inspiring! The fact that you can be abusive and honest about it, that level of honesty touches people, and they feel intense empathy with the perpetrator. According to Brad Blanton, “Radical Honesty is a culture and a cult,” and RH workshops permit people to be assholes. He’s right. I spent nine years justifying violence until I got violated beyond instant repair. My therapy simply became too expensive to get myself back into that culture. It is acceptable, expected, and encouraged in the Radical Honesty workshop to yell at you, interrupt you, provoke you, resent you at any time about petty stuff like your face, or tone of voice, or whoever you remind that person of, objectify your body, discuss your traumatic life events, minimize your experience to just your story, mock you for being sad or hurt, and humiliate you for your needs. Your need for psychological, emotional, or even physical safety is just a manipulation. The trainers will resent you for speaking after inviting you to speak. They will resent you for your choice of expression and will demand you to be “radically honest.” Some participants reported that the core attraction of Radical Honesty is the freedom to say and do whatever you want and be forgiven for it. Some trainers shame victims and sympathize with abusers because, in the RH world, victims and abusers are just a story, and they deflect claims of misconduct by making it into your personal process with the intent for you to get over it. "What do you notice in your body?," “Does this remind you of anyone from your past?,” “How do you make it important/personal for you?” You can still hold people accountable for what they do and say. Just know that a Radical Honesty practitioner or a trainer will work really hard to rationalize, justify, and make it into an emotional process for you, thinking that they’re helping you to get over whatever you’re so upset about. Eventually, you will be pressured to get over your emotional attachment to accountability.  

Extensive use of double standards.

In my personal experience with the RH organization, the higher you go in the hierarchy, the less honest you need to be, and the less rigid Radical Honesty you need to do. As a result, if you're dealing with someone superior to you, you'll be expected to do all the hard work, stick to the facts/specifics, schedule the calls, try to relate by complying, and say all the right things so that your superior is appeased and likes you again. You are expected to be vulnerable and call yourself out on your behavior, but the same expectation doesn’t apply to superior trainers. In the same way, participants will be taught to keep agreements and speak in the right way, but the trainers will be breaking the agreements and using more diverse ways to express themselves. If you get upset about the double standards, you’ll be blamed for “playing an unfairness game” and will be asked to take care of yourself better and ask for what you want.

Sexual comments and vulgar behavior.

Some trainers in Radical Honesty simply believe that it's good for people to share sexual stuff in any context, with anybody, get triggered, and get over the trigger by expressing it. Most privileged white cis men have no problem with that arrangement. Women, on the other hand, do, and they’re being gaslighted by being told it’s an opportunity to empower themselves, face their sexual predators, and forgive them. Some men would say the most disgusting things just to evoke a reaction in a woman because he wants to practice saying outrageous things, and he thinks it’s good for her to get angry and get over it.

What can you do when you suspect someone is using Radical Honesty against you?

  1. The best is to seek allies. Talk to people outside of Radical Honesty and ask for their feedback, what they think is going on and how to respond.
  2. Sometimes a practitioner or a trainer is smart and will use their vulnerability to pretend that they want to connect and share what's up with them in hopes of evoking empathy in you (a strategy to gain your trust). Stand your ground, if you feel controlled, or that something is off, trust your intuition, call them out if you can, or leave the situation. Important to understand that you cannot be honest when you're being controlled. Control takes away your agency and free will to make your own decisions.
  3. If the person misusing Radical Honesty is part of the Radical Honesty Institute, use the anonymous reporting form on their website to inform the Institute about their behavior. If it becomes dangerous, contact your local authorities and seek professional help.

I hope this will help you speak up for yourself or others if you see someone misusing Radical Honesty. If you are unsure what is going on and need guidance, consider reaching out to me or another professional trained in coercive control and abuse of power.

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. If you are experiencing abuse or manipulation, reach out to a qualified therapist or counselor.

Written by
Jura Glo

I’m a certified NARM Practitioner and a former Radical Honesty Trainer with over 9 years of experience working with individuals and couples globally.

I specialize in addressing trauma-induced relationship dynamics and am known for my ability to cut through superficial issues to focus on what truly matters.

My efficiency in identifying core problems and implementing solutions, coupled with my commitment to psychological and emotional safety, underscores my approach, characterized by full transparency and authenticity in my work.

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