Have you ever been perfectly honest when people ask you a question that you’d really prefer not to answer? The type of question that makes you think ‘nooooooooooooo!’ Does my bum look big in this? What do you think of my new hairstyle? Do you think that I should marry Darren? I think most of us take the kindly friend route which enables us to answer the question without risking any hurt feelings:
- You’re so pretty it doesn’t matter what you wear
- Oh wow! Amazing! That’s a big change for you isn’t it
- The only thing that matters to me is that you’re happy
What would happen if we said what we actually thought:
- Frankly your arse, in those trousers, looks like two puppies fighting in a sack – what were you thinking?
- Did your hairdresser have a psychotic episode when you were in the chair? That’s the only excuse I can think of for that hairstyle!
- I can’t stand Darren and I think it will be the biggest mistake of your life if you marry him.
We would probably find that our circle of friends diminished pretty quickly but why? Logically, when someone asks our opinion it’s because they want an honest answer no? Not really, what people want is verification of their own opinion or they don’t trust their own opinion so they look to someone else to confirm that they’ve made the right decision when they’re not sure. When people have doubts they look for affirmation and support but are we really do the best for them by acquiescing?
Whether you think someone’s bum looks big or their new hairstyle doesn’t suit them is really not going to be life changing in the course of most friendships but what about relationships? What do you do if you know for a fact that Darren is incapable of keeping it in his trousers and cheated on his last 3 girlfriends? If your friend really loves this guy would she believe you if you told her what you know? What if she already knew about his previous girlfriends but is 100% convinced that Darren was a reformed character? Will she stand by her man no matter what and turn on you because you ‘tried to ruin her relationship’? Is it better to be Switzerland in these situations and stay neutral?
The fact is that none of us knows how someone will respond to our true opinions because most of us so rarely offer them if they’re negative. We don’t want to risk hurting our friends but we also don’t want to draw their ire so we say nothing and brace ourselves for the fall-out should everything go wrong. The only problem with that, in the Darren scenario for example, is that the floods of tears and the vows to tear Darren limb from limb will inevitably be followed by ‘why didn’t you tell me?’ Therefore, it’s often pretty much the case that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
So, being brutally honest doesn’t work and lying through your teeth in the name of friendship doesn’t work so what should you do? In my opinion the only way way to keep your integrity and your friends is to be honest but kind with it and keep your fingers crossed that your friends are actually good enough friends to accept a little well meant criticism every now and again. It also helps if you follow the criticism with a little bit of flattery.
- To be honest, those trousers are not the most flattering thing I’ve seen you wear; the dress you had on last night, for example was gorgeous on you…
- To be honest, I preferred your hair the way it was before but that’s just my taste – I prefer long hair…
- To be honest, I know a few of Darren’s previous girlfriends and they all told me that he cheated on them; maybe things will be different with you but I thought you ought to know.
What should you do if you want someone’s honest opinion? Just ask them, tell them that you wont be offended but then don’t be if they don’t tell you what you want to hear. Alternatively, have confidence in your own judgement and always look at your bum in the mirror before you buy a pair of trousers ;O)