That confrontation you’ve been dreading could actually go smoother if you use this research-backed technique


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Having to sit down and confront someone about something uncomfortable can conjure a real sense of dread—whether you need to chat with your roommate about her non-existent dishwashing habits or your BFF about talking behind your back. There is something that might comfort you, though: New research shows those talks usually go way better than you think when you tell the truth.

In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, researchers conducted three different experiments: one where a group of participants had to be 100 percent honest with everyone around them for three days, another where participants had to be truthful to someone close to them when answering super-personal and difficult questions, and a third where participants had to give honest, negative feedback to someone close to them. If these all sound like worse case scenarios, you’re not alone. “We’re often reluctant to have completely honest conversations with others,” said study author Emma Levine, PhD, in a press release. “We think offering critical feedback or opening up about our secrets will be uncomfortable for both us and the people with whom we’re talking.”

“Taken together, these findings suggest that individuals’ avoidance of honesty may be a mistake.” —Emma Levine, PhD

But here’s the thing: The study authors found the end result really wasn’t that bad—at all—when lies (even little white ones) were left out of the conversations. In fact, there were a lot of benefits to being honest. Not only did participants find that their fears about confronting someone turned out to be unwarranted, but the said the convos were actually pretty enjoyable. Those who received honest feedback didn’t react as negatively as expected. “Taken together, these findings suggest that individuals’ avoidance of honesty may be a mistake,” write the authors. “By avoiding honesty, individuals miss out on opportunities that they appreciate in the long-run, and that they would want to repeat.”

The next time you’re afraid to have an open and honest conversation with someone, take a deep breath and remember it’s probably going to be just fine. People appreciate the (sometimes uncomfortable) truth more than you think.

Here’s exactly what to say during the most awkward conversations. Or, find out how to be an excellent party conversationalist in seven steps.

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