How Honest Do You Want Your Friends to Be?

When you think about it, do you really want your friends, the people with whom you choose to spend your free time, who know all your good and bad points, to be completely honest with you? How would you feel to be told that ‘yes, your bum does look big in this’, that your latest relationship is doomed from day one or that you’re not suited to a job you’ve set your heart upon?

Is this what you’re looking for from your nearest and dearest? How honest do you want your friends to be?

I guess it depends on what category of friend we’re talking about. Are they tried and tested or relatively new? Some people will have retained the same friends throughout their entire lives. They grew up together and have kept in touch over the years, through university, moving away, working through different relationships and parenting children. For others, their friends may be more transitory, as they acquire new ones at different stages of their lives.

Then there are those who refer to everyone in their circle as a friend, though I suspect those relationships have a less intense level of personal engagement.

A post-pandemic, 2021, survey of 2000 people over the age of 60 conducted by found that over 70% of those polled valued good friends as being the most important people in their lives. Of those surveyed, 45% said that honesty was the trait they valued most, closely followed by 43% who highly rated trust.

Our friendships may occur by default; we work at the same place, attend the same class, club or group. But over time we’re likely to bond more with those with whom we feel the strongest affinity and connection. That’s the time to reflect on the role of honesty and how much it matters to us.

It’s easy to forget that truth is mostly about perception and perspective. The specific facts and details may be firmly fixed, but the interpretation, the way we reference and relate to those facts can vary from person to person, and even from day to day, depending on how we’re feeling and including any new information that may have come to light.

In reality, our priorities will change and evolve over the years. We may feel very differently about how we spend our money or allocate our time once we’re settled with a partner, career and are putting down roots, starting a family.

Also, we have to recognise that our friends may not want or be interested in the same things as us. Some people may be in our lives solely because of work, the PTA, living as neighbours, a mutual interest like the gym, club or hobby. That may be the primary and possibly only point of similarity which suffices for the duration of our relationship.

We may have fair weather friends, those who only want to share the fun and good times, who don’t have the resilience or interest to cope with our lows or crisis situations. Whilst others may prefer to be foul weather friends, not keen on partying or social events, but love being supportive in tough situations. All have a special role to play in our lives.  

Being able to accept honest comments, critique and feedback is important as an adult, and coming from a friend will depend on our level of connection and how much we trust them to be genuine rather than self-serving in their remarks. It also depends on how it’s delivered.

Picking the right time is important, to allow time to absorb and discuss what’s being said. It’s not easy to be constructive if either person is in a rush or is feeling upset.

The right place is a key factor too, so not choosing a public place, which can be intimidating and appear rude, bullying and insensitive. Being ‘spoken to’ in public may mean that there’s little opportunity to question, clarify or further discuss any matters that have been raised, confirm the points being made, address what’s prompted them and understand the ultimate intent behind the intervention.

Constructive feedback can be valuable in many situations. It helps us grow, provides an interesting reflection on how others perceive us, so helping us to improve and evolve. Compliments and positive observations can help ease remarks that might otherwise be tough to hear. Unconditional praise or feedback, where we’re perhaps told that we’ve done a brilliant job, look wonderful, are great as we are can provide a big boost to our confidence.

The conditional kind of praise can be a tougher challenge, on a par with receiving a gentle touch or stroke, quickly followed by a slap or punch. Hearing, ‘you’ve done really well’, followed by, ‘hope you’re able to maintain it’, is not such sweet music to our ears as a simple ‘good job, well done!’

Certain people are privy to our inner circle. They know ‘everything’ about us. To those people we disclose and reveal many layers of our personal lives; our thoughts, feelings and challenges. Consequently, our friends hold a special place, where honesty and trust are important, as is how they choose to use or abuse that closeness.

It’s important to hear what others have to say, but it’s equally important to keep a little piece of ourselves in reserve and question what their message really means. How would they feel if someone said those things to them?  How much honesty do they accept in their lives? How honest do any of us truly want our friends to be!         

Susan Leigh, Counsellor & Hypnotherapist