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Are You Your Best Friend’s Worst Enemy?

When a friend asks for your honest advice, the last thing you want to do is hurt her with the truth. But when your keeping mum is holding her back, it’s time for you to get real.

By Amber J. Adams

 

After years of friendship, you’d probably say that you tell your BFF everything. She knows all about your crush on hot neighbour guy and that time you called in sick to sneak in some retail therapy.
But when it comes to giving her your honest feedback on her relationship mishaps or pointing out her cringe-worthy office habits, you’ve probably told her what you thought she wanted to hear, just to spare her feelings. Sidestepping the truth with friends is a natural instinct. “Women have been taught to do what it takes to keep the peace in their friendships rather than to be completely honest,” says Ellen Connell, Psy.D., a relationship therapist in San Diego. And if you’ve ever given your honest opinion to a friend only to have it backfire, it can be scary to go there again. Mandira, 30, learned the hard way that friends don’t always value the truth, even when they ask for it. “My former best friend stopped speaking to me for three years when I told her she was making a mistake by dating a guy old enough to be her dad,” she says. Another time, Mandira suggested a friend try on a bigger size during a shopping trip. “I was trying to help her look great, but she and my other friends told me I was being mean and judgmental.” It’s tempting to tell little white lies when we’re afraid the truth might bring on drama, but despite our good intentions, fibbing to your friends can be the opposite of helpful, says Dan Ariely, Ph.D., author of The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. Telling your bestie that you think her ‘famous’ roasted chicken tastes like cardboard is a secret you can keep. But here are some scenarios where a healthy dose of reality can be a good thing...

Be Honest When...
She’s bringing down your friendship with all her drama.
You’re her shoulder to lean on. That’s what friends are for, right? But her venting sessions are starting to give you déjà vu! She complains about the same issues, yet she never takes your advice. You want to be there for her, but listening to her sob stories is starting to kill your goodwill.


Here’s How To Do It
Tell her that you’ve noticed she’s been unhappy about the same situation for a while, says Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., author of The Friendship Fix. Then say, “Let’s find another way to deal with this because sitting here talking about it doesn’t seem to be helping.” You’ll be pushing her to be proactive and take concrete steps to change her situation, which is exactly what she needs.

Be Honest When...
Her over-the-top outfits are attracting the wrong attention.
You love going shopping with her, but she insists on buying every cleavage-baring top she can find. She’s a gorgeous girl, but her face isn’t what’s making people stare.


Here’s How To Do It
Focus your conversation on the potential for embarrassing situations, rather than zeroing in on her outfit, says Bonior. If she dresses too sexy for work, say, “I think that outfit looks great on you, but I wonder if some old-school co-worker might think it’s not right for work.” Then spin your next shopping trip as a wardrobe upgrade for both of you. It’ll help you get your point across.

Be Honest When...
You’re afraid her risky sex habits will come back to haunt her.
You love hearing about her latest boy adventures, but you know for a fact that it’s been a while since condoms were a part of her sex routine. You don’t want her to get pregnant or contract an STD,
but you’re scared she’ll think you’re being judge-y if you bring it up. 


Here’s How To Do It
The risk of sounding judgmental rather than helpful is super high when it comes to talking to a friend about sex. Address your concerns by making them specific to one behaviour, rather than a criticism of her as a person, says Bonior. And lighten the mood by using humour. Say, “I get worried when you tell me you’re not using protection. I really hope you’ll consider it because I don’t want you to end up pregnant or with an STD. What do you think?”

Be Honest When...
She wants honest feedback about her relationship.
Telling a friend that you think her boyfriend is wrong for her or admitting that you doubt the guy she met will call is hard to do, but your BFF is begging you to be honest..


Here’s How To Do It
In a situation this tricky, preparation is key, says Bonior. “Don’t stage a mini intervention about her dating habits or criticise her without having advice in mind for how she can make some changes,” she says. Start the conversation by reminding her about all the times she’s given you great guy advice. Then lead her to develop her own answers by asking questions, says Connell. Ask her, “Why do you think he’s not calling?” Or “Do you think deep down that he’s really right for you?” She’ll be more likely to see the situation clearly if she feels like she came up with her own answers.

Be Honest When...
She’s not getting promoted at work.
Your BFF loves her job, and she thinks she’s pretty good at it. But she’s been stuck in the same cube for years! She’s clueless why she gets overlooked for promotions, but you think her habit of hitting the snooze button could be what’s causing her the professional shaft. 

Here’s How To Do It
The next time she tells you she’s feeling under-appreciated, conveniently mention some career advice you’ve heard that you think could help her out, says Bonior. Say, “You know, I read something recently about how managers are less likely to take employees seriously when they come in late. I know my boss keeps tabs on when everyone comes into the office in the morning. Do you think your boss is a stickler about that stuff?” Then help her brainstorm ways that she can get to the next level.