I have paid empty compliments and told white lies to countless friends, and it always leaves me feeling as empty as the compliment itself. What I want is to be honest—but in a sensitive way. Why is that so hard to do?
Telling a friend you don’t like her skirt—or worse, her boyfriend—is not an easy thing. Especially if you’re a people-pleaser like me (and many other women). I have serious dread and fear when it comes to disappointing people. I don't want to hurt people's feelings. I don't want to be disliked. I don't want you to be mad at me.
But over the years, I’ve learned a few solutions to stop avoiding awkwardness and start embracing the truth. Below are five steps I have used be honest, while still being kind, and not feeling guilty or anxious about it.
01. How important is the issue?
I have become so conditioned to not follow my natural instinct. So instead, I often answer in a way that is socially kosher and that doesn't ruffle feathers. But what if it's something that your gut is reacting strongly against?
The key here is to weigh the importance of the issue. So you don’t like your girlfriend’s skirt—it's not the end of the world if you don’t tell her so. But you don’t like the way her boyfriend flirts with other women when she’s not around? It’s time to let her know.
02. Speak using 'I' statements.
A big thing I have learned: I cannot control how someone reacts to my opinion. I can control the way I speak, and knowing that my intentions are coming from a genuine desire to do good. Communicate this by speaking from your personal perspective, not accusing the other person. I feel that, I think that, It hurt me when...
I can communicate how I would do something, what I would wear, what I would say, and I know my friend is also free to do the same.
03. End on a positive note.
When you’re telling a friend something that she doesn’t want to hear, have empathy. Put yourself in her shoes and acknowledge this might be awkward to talk about. But reassure her that you’re being honest because you care about her and your friendship. Your relationship will never fully develop if you can’t speak the truth.
04. Be willing to receive honesty in return.
This is an important one: Once you’ve spoken your piece, be receptive to truth in return! Honesty is a two-way street, and I promise you’re better off for that.
Love your new haircut but your bestie isn’t a fan? That’s OK. Recognize you’re two different people, celebrate your unique traits, and stand firm in the way you feel—regardless of anyone else’s opinions.
05. Don't over analyze yourself when you speak up.
We can spend hours in our heads, re-playing a conversation or interaction from the day: Did I say something mean? Did she get what I was saying? Was that the right thing to say?
Unless you feel like you have hurt someone and need to apologize, then what’s done is done. Give yourself some grace, girl! If your friend is set off extremely easily, that is not your issue. But it is your issue to tell the truth, with kindness. You owe everyone around you that, but more importantly, you owe it to yourself.