How honest are your friends?

“And this wasn’t lying, not really. It was leaving out.” – Stephen King, Hearts in Atlantis


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.

OR

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.

OR

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…

Whatever.

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.

XO,

Kiran

22 Responses to How honest are your friends?

  • Mercy says:

    This is true not just in friendships. I don’t have any close friends at the moment. I’ve never been someone to do that, simply because I find it so hard to make those kinds of friendships. Being a good friend takes work. :) The ones I did have close before now live in other places and I only connect with them via Facebook.
    Anyway, I was thinking it also applies to relationships, like marriage. I know I don’t tell my husband everything and he certainly doesn’t tell me everything. I often wish I could get more out of him. :) Men and talking. Ha. But it’s true that there are times when omissions or little white lies are better than the straight up truth. Right now I’m losing weight, and when I ask, hubby is kind enough to say that I do look like I’m losing, even though he has to live with me and doesn’t really see the change. It makes me feel better even though I have a ways to go.
    Mercy recently posted…April Weight Check-inMy Profile

  • Nelson
    Twitter:
    says:

    I had a friend who “only spoke the truth”. The unfortunate part was it was the truth from that person’s perspective. You said it properly, sight is only one of the senses we need to make proper judgements. Little white lies are a part of our everyday lives from the time we’re toddlers until we die. I found it interesting when the truth was spoken to that individual as they spoke it to others they were offended. Go figure!
    Nelson recently posted…So, what are you leaving your kids?My Profile

  • Alison
    Twitter:
    says:

    Sometimes, kindness matters more than the truth.
    xoxo
    Alison recently posted…Parenting TheoriesMy Profile

  • Amber West says:

    Thank you for this.

    The “I’m just keepin’ it real” has surpassed being “real” and become plain old nastiness in a lot of cases. I grew up around people that were honest, sometimes bordering on brutal, but what they said came from a place of love. Now, I see too many people who hide behind “being real” to just voice whatever they want without consequence.

    While I want my friends to be honest with me, I want them to be tactful.
    Amber West recently posted…She Is FierceMy Profile

  • Kim
    Twitter:
    says:

    I value kindness the most. In the scenarios you describe, I fall into the #2 category – along with my friends – and am happy to be there. The world seems friendlier when we encourage and accept one another.
    Kim recently posted…Roller CoasterMy Profile

  • MomWithaDot says:

    Friends? What Friends??? You don’t mean faces that appear on my facebook home page do you? Hm….didn’t think so. Haven’t had a ‘real’ friend live around me in ages. They are all in different states and in other parts of the world. The only way I could go out to dinner with friends is if I ate in my patio on a conference call connecting two or three time-zones LOL!
    MomWithaDot recently posted…Raising not one, but two Feminists.My Profile

  • Ilene
    Twitter:
    says:

    I have a post in draft right now, about relationships, where I say the following:

    ” There are people who get you and there are people who don’t get you and there are the people who don’t get you but love you anyway because they understand that you may not see the world through the same eyes they do.There are the people who see you for who they think you are, there are the people who see you for who you think you are and there are the people who see you for who you really are.” I want to hang with the people who see me for who I really am and those are the people who know how to talk to me. Hopefully, I do the same for them.

    I love this post and so get it! xo
    Ilene recently posted…The In-BetweenMy Profile

  • Lori E
    Twitter:
    says:

    I try not to say things that are negative or judgmental and can usually come up with a positive comment.
    If it is something minor like a messy house or not hitting the gym I am fine but when someone is stressing about their abusive husband or their bad relationships I will hit you with the truth and I don’t sugar coat it. No room for ambiguity there.
    Soooo do these pants make my ass look big?
    Lori E recently posted…ROCKIN’ CABBAGE ROLLSMy Profile

  • Lady Jennie says:

    Hi lovely friend!

    Okay so in number one? I would be the one who said, “Oh my goodness, this is nothing on how messy MY place is. But fortunately I love cleaning other peoples houses better than I like cleaning my own, so … where should I start?” (that’s actually true – I hate cleaning my own house but not other people’s because I never see it get messy again).

    For scenario two, I would have totally not helped because I would have come bearing dripping gluten-free chocolatey goodness.

    I joke a lot with harsh truths – say the things you’re never supposed to say, but only with friends who know me, and who know that when it really matters and they are really struggling or grieving that I will cry with them and do whatever I can to help.

    On a less esoteric level, is your jeweled bindi by any chance photoshopped in? It really stands out in that gorgeous B&W picture of you.
    Lady Jennie recently posted…Life in the Trenches – Chapter 13My Profile

  • Anna See says:

    This is great! I am a truth teller when it comes to most things. But if a friend is just looking for affirmation and love, that’s the way to go.
    Anna See recently posted…Except for the SnapshotMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      Anna,

      I am a truth teller in most things too. As a matter of fact, I have truth overload most days. In fact, yesterday, one of my best friends from my childhood called me up and we had a very real, honest conversation and in this case, I absolutely needed her to be honest with me. And the honesty didn’t hurt, it confirmed what I already knew and needed so badly to hear, not just from anybody, but from her. She did it kindly, but it was still very honest.

      And I guess that no matter what the situation – whether its telling someone we love that they need to end an abusive relationship or whether its helping a friend deal with an addiction problem, we need to be honest. And maybe sometimes that means we even need to be firmer and stronger in the words we use. I agree.

      XO.

  • Laura
    Twitter:
    says:

    THIS! This this this this this! Kiran – this is lovely and such a great reminder. I tend to hold my tongue around friends who don’t hold theirs because I don’t need them to state the obvious and make me feel like crap. Women are always hyper critical of themselves that we don’t need our friends criticizing too. Sometimes we just need them to be a FRIEND. I love how you wrote this.
    Laura recently posted…Easter ConfusionMy Profile

  • dixya
    Twitter:
    says:

    Kiran, I agree with lot of your points there because being brutally honest is one thing (because most of the time we know it too) but showing some empathy, care, and using right words will change the whole situation. And I wish sometimes our friends would consider that. sending you a big hug and a glass of wine, its after 5 somewhere right :P
    dixya recently posted…Toasted Coconut DonutsMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      Thank you, Dixya. It isn’t really something that’s happened to me recently, but I have seen women stay in “abusive” friendships where their other friends may have taken a little too much joy in pointing out their perceived inadequacies. It was more an observation than my own recent experience, but I’ll still take the hug!

  • I like friend number 3 the best : )
    Life with Kaishon recently posted…age old advice from Mother TeresaMy Profile

  • Nisha says:

    Hey.. I came to your blog via Indiblogger and loved the title.
    I hear what you are saying here.. I’m the type who would say it as it is to my friends. Later, when I think I’ve been rude, I’ll try to help them get over it. Like I would help them clean up and make a plan for them to work-out. That’s what friends are for, right?
    For me, lying doesn’t work. It enters the zone of formality and that’s when I dismiss the friendship.

  • Yes! We spoke of this and you captured it exactly. My best friends have changed over the years. I used to run with a tight little posse, and then I had a child and some of those olf friends didn’t. or else they lived in one suburb and I lived in another. I tried to maintain these friendships, but people said iived too far away. Whaaat? When you care about someone, you hop in your car and drive the 10 extra minutes. Except they didn’t. And then I started writing. And they didn’t get it. Or they didn’t like it. They worried i was going to write about them. Or something else, I don’t know what. All I know is that i have outgrown worrying about those relationships. Real friendship is soft most of the time, but honest, too. Good friends know how to offer criticism with a side order of compassion. We have become so uncivilized with each other.

    Dang. I want to give you a hug right now. Your words are so wise. And I can’t wait to hang out with you again.
    Renee Schuls-Jacobson recently posted…Tingo Tuesday: Are you Pana Po’oing or is it Head Lice?My Profile

  • Shell says:

    I think people can be too cruel in their honesty. And they hide behind “well, it’s the truth!” But there’s not usually a call to be brutally honest. Brutally? See? Right there, it’s saying that it’s going to get ugly. We could all use a little more kindness.
    Shell recently posted…Online Safety for Kids and an iPad Mini GiveawayMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      I agree with that sentiment so much, Shell. It’s not that I want to be enabled or don’t want honesty. I just feel like everybody is a critic these days, especially when you have an online persona and do open yourself up to it, to some extent. Hugs to you darlin’.

  • Agreed. And a lot of times, we don’t want the problem fixed (ahem…husbands). We just want an open ear and shut mouth. Now I’m the one being too honest. ;)
    TheSocialButterflyMom recently posted…Mom wouldn’t let me eat a vomit grapeMy Profile

  • I did change over to self-tailing winches a few years ago, but that wasn’t age, just an opportunity to buy at half price in South Africa due to a temporary aberration in exchange rates.
    August S. Graves recently posted…No last blog posts to return.My Profile

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MEET KIRAN
I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live (and love) out loud. Read More....
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