“Straight talkers”, most believe, are people to be admired. They don’t “hem and haw”, “beat around the bush”, “play fast and loose with the facts”, or deliberately deceive. Still, they are the exceptions. We expect that most in conversation will omit certain information, will tend to exaggerate or tailor the story to suit their purposes. “Truthiness”, as comedian Stephen Colbert reminds us, may be as close as we can come to the truth.
That may explain why firmly embedded in our everyday exchanges are words and phrases that attempt to reassure others that we’re leveling with them. We want them to banish any doubt and to trust what we’re telling them; and so we sprinkle the conversation with phrases like “In all candor”,”“I’m not kidding”,”frankly” or”seriously”.. When we detect some skepticism we declare, “I swear to God”, or “Believe me”. Sensing continued disbelief we’re quick to interject, “To be honest with you” (which would seem to imply that up to then we’ve not been). When we reach the point where belief is critical we’d best preface it with, “To tell you the truth”, an effort to allay all remaining doubts.
So, you see that our language incorporates a defensive strategy, an awareness that our words are not always taken at face value. The remedy is sincerity plus repeated verbal assurances that our words represent the “God’s Honest Truth”.