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 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.

How to recognize when someone weaponizes Radical Honesty?

These are all the examples former workshop participants gave me; I witnessed them in myself and other trainers and practitioners.

  1. 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 happen because the system made doesn't serve or is harmful to the recipient of that behavior or system.
  2. They insist you use the specifics; Radical Honesty uses insider language. In workshops, trainers ask participants to use specifics in describing what they have perceived with their senses and what interpretations they made of those percepts so that such speaking helps them process the experience and settle in their bodies. It's a therapeutic tool that is designed to support a participant. When it's used outside of the workshop or is abused by the trainer when the participant is resisting the coaching, that tool is used to gaslight and disregard the participant's experience. It's a very cruel type of abuse that leaves people confused and emotionally dysregulated (angry, scared, and hurt) and can cause mental health issues in the future.
  3. They're only willing to talk to you if you use "Radical Honesty language"; If they say that, it simply means they're not willing to talk to you. That's all. You don't need to change. They need to change their mind and inform you when they're ready to talk, human to human.
  4. They use Radical Honesty to justify harm and refuse accountability for their impact on others; According to Brad Blanton, RH is a cult and RH workshops permit people to be assholes. It's true. I spent nine years justifying the violence until I got tired. It is acceptable in the RH workshop to yell at you, interrupt you, provoke you, resent you at any time, objectify your body, talk about your traumatic life events without your consent, minimise your experience, mock you for being sad or hurt, and humiliate you for your needs. In recent years, trainers have introduced relationship repair (thanks to Susan Campbell). Still, it's incorporated sporadically, and most people join Radical Honesty because they want to be free to say and do whatever they want and get away with it. Some say that's the core attraction of RH.  Some trainers will shame victims and will demonstrate compassion for abusers because in the RH world, victims and abusers are just a story, and they will deflect your claims by asking, "What do you notice in your body?". You can still hold people accountable for what they do and say. Just know that a Radical Honesty practitioner or a trainer will have a bunch of excuses why what they did is legit. You will be pressured to get over your emotional attachment to accountability.  
  5. They avoid addressing an issue you have with them by saying, "It's your issue; you're the one who needs to address it"; The reality is that the higher you go in the hierarchy, the less honest you need to be, and the less 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 and demonstrate all your capacity for vulnerability and emotional processing.
  6. They make sexual comments, share sexual fantasies, and express attraction in an inappropriate context (e.g., at work, when you're alone, etc.); Some trainers in Radical Honesty simply believe that it's good for people to share that in any context, get triggered and get over the trigger for their own good. Most white cis men have no problem with that arrangement.
  7. They control you with their expectations of you needing always to be honest with them; It's very common for people who have control issues to join Radical Honesty because it's so simple, rigid and dogmatic, and so, it's easy to use it to control your own mind and the minds of others. It takes a few years for some to recognize when they're being forceful and manipulating their friends or spouses to be honest with them, so that they can be honest in return. Radical Honesty promotes entitlement and bypasses empathy.
  8. They deflect accountability by asking you what's your part in this conflict/situation, "How did you create this for yourself"? I'm baffled that I've heard that from senior trainers who work with hundreds of people and survivors of abuse. It's a therapeutic intervention that is done at the time of process when the client is in an emotionally regulated state. I keep hearing trainers, and later practitioners keep misusing that to control a person in an emotional state to think themselves into agency. I'm rolling my eyes. Obviously, that's not how it works. I hope trainers will get some education about it one day, but until then, beware, they will use it t control you.

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

  1. Check if they want to relate or to control:
  2. If they're willing to relate, they will share something personal and vulnerable with you about the situation, and they will engage with you with curiosity;
  3. If they want to control you, set your boundary (boundary is actionable and defined by proximity and influence on you) or ask someone to facilitate the conversation - seek allies.
  4. It's possible that the practitioner or trainer is smart and will use their vulnerability to pretend that they want to connect (the most common phrase used by toxic manipulators) and share what's up with them in hopes to evoke empathy in you (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 to act.
  5. 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 and ask for a support circle call.

If it is in a workshop or your daily life, any behavior of control (without consent) is violence. 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.

Stay informed <3

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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