A few years ago, I wrote a post about how good friends know what to say to each other in tough situations. They know the difference between being painfully truthful and kindly, gently delivering a message. Other times, they might even tell little white lies to help you get the message. Well, I called it lies, but I realize now what I meant was not necessarily lies… more like, omission?
What do you mean? I want someone to tell it to me straight, you might think. Yeah, I say the same thing, but when it comes at me too fast, too hard, I realize I’m not always ready for it. Let’s just walk through a few scenarios and see how this might work.
Scenario 1: Your house is a big, hot mess. It’s not dirty, necessarily, but it is NOT neat. At ALL. You thought you would have more time to straighten up before you friend came by for tea. But she’s not just on time, (who does that?) she’s 30 minutes early. You open the door, greet her and say, “Gosh, I’m so sorry, I haven’t had a chance to clean up! It’s kind of a mess around here.”
Your friend has a few options here.
1) She can tentatively walk through the door and say, “You’re right. This place is a mess! You let your kids live here?” She can wrinkle her nose as if the nose hairs in her teeny, pert little nose are offended. She might then go over and dramatically wipe some dirt off a table with her index finger.
The same finger you want to use to poke her in the eyes with.
2) She can stride right in and wave her hands dismissively and say, “What mess? Seriously? You call this a mess? You should see my place!”
She will say this to you even if you know for a fact that her place is spotless.
3) She will hug you, roll her eyes and and say, “Who cares? And I’m not really in the mood for tea. Here’s some wine instead!”
Now if you are one of my friends, the way you would most likely react upon entering my house is 2. There might be a little of 3 mixed in, but only if it’s after 5 PM.
Scenario 2: You haven’t had time to hit the gym. Your jeans are telling you that things are getting a little out of control and while you haven’t gained a lot of weight, your body has seen better days.
Particularly your abs. And your thighs. Oh and also, that wobbly part of your upper arm, along your tri…
You meet your friends at a restaurant and admit to them that you haven’t been working out. That things between work travel AND the family AND the house AND your in-laws visiting this week AND your car breaking down AND … Well. They get it.
Friends can use this opportunity to really let you know how they feel.
1) “There is really no excuse for anyone to NOT do cardio for at least 20 minutes a day. That’s what Jennifer Aniston says,” Your one friend says while dipping her gluten-free, dairy-free, taste-free cookie in her herbal tea. She also makes sure to flex her arms to show you how toned they are. Also she might show you her abs, because she’s been doing boot camp at the gym.
2) “You’ve got a lot on your plate. You’ll get back in there. Just let things slow down and make it and yourself a priority.” They nod understandingly. One might even pat you on the back.
Just because. It looks like it needs patting.
3) “Oh. That’s sad. Do you want some chocolate cake?”
I think my friends would probably lean more towards answer 2. With a little bit of 3 sprinkled in, because everyone knows that sometimes? Everybody just needs a little chocolate.
Look, it’s not like we don’t know your house is a mess in Scenario 1. And its not like we didn’t notice the few extra pounds in Scenario 2. But you know what else a real friend notices? They might see the tiredness around your eyes as you are struggling to keep it all together. They might notice that you’ve lost your usual confident stride. They might notice that when they ask, “How are you?” and you say “Fine” that “fine” doesn’t really mean fine.
That today, “fine” might mean, “Hold me. Please?”
Friends GET it.
When I wrote that post a few years ago, one of my friends got upset with me. She thought I was questioning her integrity, when in fact, I was applauding her kindness and empathy in so many, many situations where her answers could have been so much less kind. I think what I’m calling “little white lies” is more about employing tact and some sensitivity. Using our words more carefully with each other.
Not every thought needs to be uttered; not every piece of advice needs to be given. Even sometimes when we think we know best.
I think about whether my answers to the scenarios would have changed between the time I originally wrote that post in 2010 and today and I don’t really think they would. If anything, perhaps I would be and also expect a little more softness now than I did then. A little more compassion. Because life hasn’t always been kind and my friends and I have all been through so much more than we ever expected in three years. Life has gotten harder. We didn’t know it would. It just DID.
I feel like a lot of times I hear people saying things like, “Look, I say it how I see it.” Or maybe, “I like to keep things real.” And that’s great. Good for you for being in touch with your feelings and having the confidence to get it out there. But sometimes, I think saying “I say it how I see it” is just an excuse to be rude. Hard. It lacks empathy. Humanity.
And ironically, you often STILL don’t see it.
I’ve come to realize that while my eyes can “see it,” if my heart and my hearing and my touch aren’t all part of the observation too, I’m missing a whole lot of IT, whatever IT is.
Saying it like you see it involves ONE sense. Sight. And ironically, when it’s used alone, I think it can make you a little blind.
In my life, I have come to realize that the meme below, while funny, just isn’t always necessary. In fact, it’s just a whole lot of noise sometimes that nobody else needs.
I have been that girl above. Especially the hair. I can TOTALLY see my hair doing that sometimes. The point is, I still won’t be quiet about a lot of things. But when it comes to my close friendships, I choose to tread lightly and with care. I owe it to the wonderful women in my life to give them that love and that courtesy.
If my friends are receiving judgment, let it be known that it won’t be from me.