Honesty is often the best policy, but sometimes the appearance of it is worth six of it.

What did Mark Twain mean by:

Honesty is often the best policy, but sometimes the appearance of it is worth six of it.


This quote suggests that while honesty is typically the most advisable course of action, there are occasions where the mere illusion of honesty can be more beneficial than honesty itself. The value of “six of it” implies that the appearance of honesty can sometimes be six times more valuable than actual honesty.

This isn’t advocating for dishonesty, but rather highlighting the complex nature of truth and perception. It points to the fact that, in some situations, the perception of honesty can have greater impact than the raw truth. This could be due to the potential harm the truth might cause, or the negative reactions it might provoke. It’s a reflection on the social complexities of human interaction, where what is said (or not said) can have profound implications.

Applying this idea in today’s world, one might think of diplomacy, politics or even corporate communications, where the full truth is often masked, not necessarily to deceive, but to maintain harmony, prevent panic or control the narrative. For instance, a politician might not disclose every detail about a policy to avoid public uproar, or a CEO might not reveal the full extent of a company crisis to prevent a stock market crash.

In terms of personal development, this quote could be interpreted as a reminder to be mindful of how we communicate. It’s not just about telling the truth, but also about considering the impact of that truth on others. It encourages emotional intelligence, tact, and the ability to navigate sensitive situations. It’s about understanding when to be brutally honest, and when to present the truth in a more palatable way. It encourages us to understand the difference between being honest and being hurtfully blunt.

However, it’s important to remember that this quote isn’t promoting deceitfulness. It’s more about recognizing that honesty is nuanced, and that there are times when the full, unvarnished truth might not be the most beneficial or kind course of action.

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