EXPERT ADVICE FOR BALANCING THE TRICKY LINE BETWEEN BRUTAL HONESTY AND UNCONDITIONAL SUPPORT

BY LAILA ELISE

We’ve all felt that certain hesitation when pondering whether to confront our dear friend’s decisions. Whether we have a bad feeling about their new fiancé, we disagree with a career move, or we think they are on the wrong side of an argument, sometimes the safest and easiest solution is to simply hold our tongues, but does that make us bad friends? On one hand, it is our nature to want to help the people we love and make sure they reach their full potential, but if they seem happy and content in their choices, then why not support them with our silence? It’s a complex, age-old dilemma. Experts weigh in with tips to help identify if/when it is the right time to speak up in order to foster strong, healthy friendships.

Be Authentic, But Tactful

Dr. Irene Levine, known as the “Friendship Doctor,” said there’s a delicate balance between being brash and remaining tactful and sensitive to our friend’s feelings. While it’s imperative to be authentic, it’s equally as important to consider the most effective way to voice concerns. For example, if you’re put off by a friend’s new partner’s behavior, try asking questions about it (i.e.“Do you think John monopolizes the conversation sometimes?”) versus making accusatory or emotionally charged statements (“I hate the way he talks down to all of us!”). As with most tough conversations, timing often plays a crucial role in how your opinions might be received. It’s nice to give your friend or partner a heads-up before diving into what could be an emotionally draining event. Ask to set aside time to talk about something that’s been weighing on you. It will give your counterpart some time to prepare.

Try to Deduce Your Motives First

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It’s difficult not to be a tad subjective in this area, but psychotherapist and author Joan Kavanaugh said it’s critical to remember that your “truth” is not necessarily the same as your friend’s. Asking yourself why you want to share your opinion with your friend is a good place to start. If you discover the interest is self-serving in nature, versus in the service and protection of your friend’s health and well-being, then it might be best to keep quiet. If John’s obnoxious dinner conversation seems to bother you much more than your friend, who seems happy and relaxed while around him, it can be argued that it’s best to keep your thoughts to yourself and instead offer your support for the relationship. Again, asking questions versus criticism tends to be better received. However, if you are noticing a negative change in your friend, then a conversation is probably warranted. It also might be time to speak up if any scenario is causing a notable rift between you two. As long as you are genuine in expressing your concern, having these types of difficult conversations will eventually make your bond stronger and your friendship will benefit.