For example if I ask you a question and you share everything with me truthfully, then you are being transparent with me.

But for example if you voluntarily tell me about your spending habits, without me asking. Can we also use the word transparent in that situation?

Would you say "I was being very transparent with him about my spending habits?"

Essentially is it normal to use that word transparent in both the situations i.e. when information is pulled vs pushed?

  • 5
    I don't think there is anything wrong with using 'transparent' to describe when you share information with another person without them asking, but it feels like a slightly better fit for the first example you describe. Other words that might work for where you voluntarily tell someone about your spending habits are 'open', 'candid', 'frank.' Depending on the social situation/context, it could even be 'overshare.'
    – Jay Bee
    Nov 21 at 6:13
  • When information is being pushed like you're describing, I feel like the ideal word to use is "forthright," although it's less commonly used. It connotes honesty and a little bit of outspokenness while not being negative. "Vocal" is also a great word as Jason Goematt's answer suggests, and has a neutral connotation. "Overshare" as Jay Bee suggests is commonly used and applicable in a lot of situations, and has more of a negative connotation.
    – Brandon
    Nov 22 at 19:27
  • Broadly, no. The use of 'volunteering' means the two terms are not related. 'Being transparent' means not hiding anything in what I say, but that has nothing to do with how or why I came to say it. 'Volunteering information' means not needing to be forced into speaking, but that does not prevent me from hiding however-many details. The two can, and often do overlap but that's always by co-incidence; not by definition. 5 hours ago

4 Answers 4


Welllll .... The two ideas are not necessarily the same. We say someone is being "transparent" when he is being open and honest. Someone could volunteer information but only volunteer information that favors himself or his side of a debate.

Like if a government agency published their budget, how much they received and what they spent it on, that would be being "transparent".

Like suppose a government agency was accused of, say, supporting big corporations over small competitors. They reply, "That's not true! Last year we gave over $50 million in grants to small companies!" But they don't mention that they gave $1 billion in grants to big companies. They would be volunteering information, but I wouldn't call that being transparent.

But I suppose any answer to this would depend on exactly how you interpret the word "transparent".

  • 1
    Exactly. Transparency is about what the US judicial system expects, in principle, of witnesses: the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Nov 21 at 12:39
  • 5
    Or to come back to an individual, as the question seems to be, you could tell them what you spend on rent, food, clothes, lots of detail - but deliberately omit that you spend loads on booze/pokemon cards/some other habit so as to give the impression you're frugal
    – Chris H
    Nov 21 at 13:39
  • @ChrisH Yes, better example than mine because it relates directly to the question. I would have said "gambling, drugs, and prostitutes", but maybe you come from more refined circles than I.
    – Jay
    Nov 24 at 1:33
  • @jay I just picked something legal but that could be considered a waste of money - and I never mind a slightly daft example. But yours work well too. I very nearly said "vice" rather than "habit"
    – Chris H
    Nov 24 at 6:35

Non-native speaker here.

I would say yes. It is transparent. However, there might be other choices of word that are more suitable in different situations. See Jay Bee's comment.

If I want to get some information from you and you are ready to provide such information to me or you gave me the information even before I want it, I will be satisfied because of your transparency.

Apart from the information being truthful, you must not hide any other critical information related to it in order to be able to call it transparent though.

  • 2
    Comments may be deleted at any time, so if Jay Bee's comment is strongly relevant to your answer, I recommend pasting their words directly into your answer (quote formatted with a citation, of course). If not, I'd remove reference to it.
    – gotube
    Nov 21 at 20:50

I think it is ok, but I think it is used more when responding to someone asking a questions, or when someone is looking for something as in when they are looking for it, nothing is blocking their view.

But for example if you voluntarily tell me about your spending habits, without me asking. Can we also use the word transparent in that situation?

In this case I think better words would be 'open', or maybe 'vocal'.

  1. "They are transparent about their spending habits" - they have nothing to hide and will tell you if you ask them.
  2. "They are open about their spending habits" - it might come up in conversation and they might tell you more than you care to know.
  3. "They are vocal about their spending habits" - they are proud about their spending habits and bring them up frequently as a topic of conversation or in unrelated conversations.

Yes, you can use the term "transparent" in both situations

People have pointed out that you aren't being transparent if you selectively volunteer information to create a misleading impression, but you also aren't being transparent if you truthfully but misleadingly answer a question. If you volunteer information and/or answer questions in such a way as to give the other person a full and accurate sense of what's going on, you are being transparent.

Put differently, to say that a person or organization is being transparent is to say that they are exhibiting a behavior pattern of openness and honesty. That can include both volunteering information and answering questions.

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