Alternatives to “to be honest…”

Leaders must avoid beginning sentences with, “To be honest…”


It sends the message that everything prior to this statement was a lie, or that it wasn’t totally true, and it casts your other communication into a less credible light.

It also comes across as gossipy, and a leader mustn’t gossip.

But that’s not what you intend, right? You just want to lay it on the line, get to the core, cut to the chase…

So, what are some alternatives to “To be honest”, “honestly”, “to be perfectly honest”, and “truthfully”, that get closer to conveying your intent?

Try these:

  • I’m afraid I’ve been unclear; let me put it this way…
  • Maybe the central issue is this…
  • I did a bad job of giving you the bottom line up front; here’s where I should have started…
  • Perhaps this is a clear way of looking at it…
  • This might be tough to hear, and it’s uncomfortable for me to say…


To be honest, I think your website landing page idea is too cutesy.”


This might be tough to hear, and it’s uncomfortable for me to say… your idea may be too cutesy for what we’re trying to project.”

Maybe the central issue is this; we’re working at a professional, upscale image, and the cute route might be working against that.”

I’ve been unclear; let me put it this way; I think this website landing page idea is too cutesy.”

Work on this, and remember when you hear someone else say “Truthfully…” or something equivalent, they may be trying to get the bottom line across, and it may have been uncomfortable for them, so cut ’em some slack and listen to their point with less judgment.SaveSave

6 Responses

  1. David Negley
    | Reply

    Hi, Alan,

    In addition, “to be honest” may come across as implying that the speaker doesn’t trust the hearer to understand or accept the criticism. Your offered alternatives are more deferential and account for differing perspectives and understanding.


    • Alan Feirer
      | Reply

      Very good point, David! Thanks for weighing in.

  2. Tom Henricksen
    | Reply

    As leaders we must choose our words very carefully. With our position we have more people watching us. Thanks for sharing this Alan!

  3. Samantha
    | Reply

    Great ideas! I will work on implementing.

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