12 traits of a genuinely honest person

Lying is a curious thing.

The social status quo is clear: lying is bad; honesty is good.

Whether we want to get tips on how to become more honest, or are simply curious as to how to spot people who are truly honest, read on.

In this article, we’ll be looking into why people lie as well as 12 traits of a genuinely honest person.

So why do people lie?

We tend to dislike people who lie, but I’m willing to bet that we’ve all fibbed more times than we care to admit, whether that’s a little white lie, an omission of facts or details, or an all-out warping of the truth.

Even little kids lie, especially when they think that they are going to get in trouble for whatever reason. No one necessarily taught them to do it; they just did it out of instinct.

But the problem is, lies hurt. No matter the reason we did it – to protect someone’s feelings, avoid conflict, keep someone else’s secrets, or keep up a certain image – it destroys trust.

12 traits of a genuinely honest person

So that begs the question: if everybody lies, how can we know who’s really telling the truth? What are the traits of a genuinely honest person?

1) They don’t take credit for other people’s work

I know, I know. Sometimes, it might be tempting to take someone else’s hard work as your own and get all the praise for it. 

However, truly honest people don’t take credit for things other people are responsible for. 

That’s because when they actually achieve something thanks to their own effort and skills, it feels a thousand times better.

Remember, humility is a praiseworthy trait all on its own.

2) They don’t talk about other people behind their backs

Gossiping – defined by researchers as talking about people who aren’t there – isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The University of California’s assistant professor of psychology, Megan Robbins, said that this “comes very naturally to us” and that it’s a way through which we impart and gain information.

Author and psychology professor at Georgia Gwinnett College, David Ludden, said that gossiping isn’t always negative either. It can be positive or neutral.

The problem occurs when the information being shared damages the person being talked about. It’s usually of a personal nature, scandalous, hurtful, and not necessarily true.

One of the traits of a genuinely honest person is that they don’t spread rumors, let alone malicious ones. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not – honest people think before they speak.

3) They stay true to their word

Honest people understand that promises have weight, and so they take breaking them seriously.

Therefore, when they say they will do something, they do it – their word is their bond.

They also don’t make promises they know they can’t keep. This is what builds trust between them and the people they interact with.

4) They are accountable for their actions

Yet another of the traits of a genuinely honest person is that they take responsibility for their actions or mistakes.

They don’t try to blame it on other people, which makes them trustworthy (and likable) to those they work with. It also shows that they have a good level of maturity.

Being accountable for things also makes them want to be better, which leads them to try harder the next time the same situation comes around.

5) They stand up for what they believe in

It’s not easy to stick to your beliefs, especially when public opinion is against you. 

Genuinely honest people don’t just let go of their convictions at the first sign of resistance or opposition. 

Instead, they try to live by their values as best they can – in other words, they are true to themselves.

6) They are respectful

Another of the traits of a genuinely honest person is that they treat everyone with dignity and kindness.

They can show this respect through their actions, including telling them the truth. They understand that every single person deserves the truth, especially if it concerns them.

More than that, they do it even if it’s difficult or uncomfortable. They do it because it’s right.

7) They aren’t motivated by material wealth

This is arguably one of their strongest qualities. 

This is very relevant, especially in the context of one’s work: truly honest people don’t lie or drag someone’s name across the mud just so they can get that coveted promotion. 

Rather, their sense of worth comes from the immaterial things in life: their purpose, their family, their friends, or their passions.

8) They are trustworthy

Among the traits of a genuinely honest person is being trustworthy.

After all, someone who has all the previous traits we discussed usually tends to be.

Because they don’t pretend to be someone or something that they’re not, people surrounding them are also likely to open up to them and act like their real selves.

With a genuinely honest person, what you see is what you get.

9) They take criticism well

This trait is connected to accountability.

Particularly in a work setting, truly honest people receive criticism and know that it’s not personal and that it’s for their own good.

When they get feedback, they don’t take offense where there is none.

One of the traits of a genuinely honest person is owning up to their mistakes and taking the necessary steps to get better.

10) They follow their own advice

Honest individuals also tend to practice what they preach.

People come to them because they value their honesty and judgment. So when honest people give advice, they don’t just say what they think the other person wants to hear. 

They also think about what kind of advice they would want to get if it was they who were having problems. 

More importantly, they don’t give advice that they themselves wouldn’t follow. That’s one of the traits of a genuinely honest person that makes them credible.

11) They can admit when they are in the wrong

Because they have accountability and the desire to improve themselves – whatever the situation – honest people are generally able to admit when they mess up.

They are able to do this because they also believe that honest communication is necessary for a relationship of any kind to flourish (or even survive).

Truly honest people also understand that mistakes don’t make them any less good at what they do nor does it change who they are at heart.

12) They are transparent

Speaking of honest communication, one of the traits of a genuinely honest person is transparency.

While it’s understandable to use transparency and honesty synonymously, there is a fine line between the two concepts.

Honesty refers to truthfulness, while transparency is more about openness. While the former is when it is you sharing the truth, the latter is when you allow others to see the truth, whichever way they may perceive it. 

This is particularly helpful in an organization: when you’re part of management, being transparent is key. For instance, your employees want to know how company policy will affect their productivity or their work-life balance, among other things. 

When you make it easy to see through you, you make it easier for them to know you better and accept you.

In relationships, being transparent encourages the other person to open up to you as well. It’s not rocket science: openness is needed for a relationship to have a chance at success.

Final thoughts

Honesty is one of the most important qualities a person can have. 

Having someone honest as a friend, as a colleague, or as an employee, can benefit your life endlessly. Being an honest person yourself makes improves your life as well.

The problem is, it’s not always easy to know when someone is actually honest or just faking it. 

Each of us has told a white lie one time or another. Sometimes, we do it just to spare someone’s feelings, keep something a surprise, or keep a secret. That doesn’t mean you’re automatically a bad person.

It only becomes a real issue when it hurts or negatively affects someone else. 

Despite this, take note that being genuinely honest doesn’t mean we tell the unadulterated truth all the time; it just means that we tell the truth when it truly matters.

Although we listed 12 traits here, genuine honesty shines through.

When you are dealing with an honest person, you can actually see and feel those traits for yourself – their trustworthiness, openness, approachability, likability, reliability, respectfulness, sense of responsibility, and kindness.

Having these traits of a genuinely honest person can help you build healthy relationships with not only the important people in your life, but those you deal with at work and within your social circles.

What’s more, when you adopt or develop these traits within yourself, you’ll find that people around you will reciprocate.

If there’s one reputation you want to have, it’s that you are a genuinely honest person.

You might find that you, too, like yourself better. 

Louise Logarta

Louise Nichole Logarta is a content writer by profession, with experience crafting feature articles, editorials, and news articles. She has been published in noted Philippine broadsheets Philippine Daily Inquirer and The Manila Times. Topics of interest she likes writing about include relationships, current affairs, health, and pop culture. Travel, journal notebooks, fiction books, and iced coffee are some of the things she enjoys.

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