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Friendships Based On Mutual Distrust January 21, 2015

Posted by nrhatch in Life Balance, Mindfulness, People.

IMGP3921“Offering superficial approval, passive agreement, and placating compliments is easy. Being a good friend is hard.”
~ Janna T. Writes


When friends ask us to “be honest,” they don’t always mean it. Instead of thanking us for our honest candor, they may lash out or turn their backs on us.

That happened to me once upon a time.

A friend asked me what I thought of the guy she was dating. Everyone else (including her mother) lied to her and said he was wonderful. I told her that he seemed selfish and full of himself.

He dumped her a few months later.

At that point, everyone else (including her mother) admitted that they had NEVER liked him, that he was a complete and utter jerk, that she was better off without him, etc.

IMGP1472aAnd she was OK with their about-face.

Even though she KNEW they had intentionally lied to her, she was OK with their dishonesty.

She was NOT OK with my honesty.

She gave me the cold shoulder for YEARS, later revealing the reason why.

As I pondered her belated explanation, I decided that, if given the chance, I would not retract my words to gain her approval by lying.

Maintaining pseudo-friendships based on mutual distrust and insincere platitudes seems rather pointless.

What do you think?

Be Honest!

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related post:  Kindly Be Honest


1. Hariod Brawn - January 21, 2015

I think this post is complete tosh.

Just kidding Nancy!

So, you’re a straight talker – who’da thunk it? 😉

H ❤

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Let me be straight with you, Hariod . . . I love that expression but have often wondered:

Is “complete tosh” above or below “utter rubbish”? :mrgreen:

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

A valuable clarification for discerning linguists. Words are such fun! Thanks, Hariod.

Hariod Brawn - January 21, 2015

The etymology of ‘tosh’, though seemingly disputed, appears to be “valuables collected from drains” – 1852, London slang, of unknown origin.

Therefore, one surely must place “complete tosh” above “utter rubbish”.

2. ashokbhatia - January 21, 2015

Indeed, this is a paradox in the multi-hued bond we call friendship!

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

For me, friendship requires trust. And trust requires honesty. So if I know that someone is lying to me (or expecting me to lie to them), I lose interest in maintaining the facade.

ashokbhatia - January 21, 2015

Sure, the right (and the only) way to go about it.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Other people may use a different criteria for friendship. Some may enjoy having sycophants around them to bolster their fragile Egos. 😉

3. Silver in the Barn - January 21, 2015

In the South there’s an expression, “She needs a girlfriend” for the woman who might be a bit of a fashion victim. I’ve always smiled at that thinking how wonderful it is to have a real friend who will tell you the daggone truth! And not be mad when you do the same for her. What do they say about ” a real friend says bad things to your face and only good things behind your back.” Something like that.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Yes! That’s a great quote. I want friends who won’t hesitate to tell me when I have . . . “spinach in my teeth.” :mrgreen:

Silver in the Barn - January 21, 2015

Well, I’ve been meaning to tell you….. Bwahahaha, oh, I just crack myself right up.😀

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

You crack me up too!

BTW: One thing I noticed in that long and lovely comment thread on “Eat Your Veggies” ~> Spinach is mentioned only once. Perhaps its reputation is tarnished due to its proclivity to lodge in dental crevices and deface smiles!

Pix Under the Oaks - January 21, 2015

So happy to read you two partying in commnets! You both crack me up.. 😀

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Barbara’s all in for our next blogging meet up! I’ve got it in writing!


4. livelytwist - January 21, 2015

Honestly? XD
I find that people, including me, say they want honesty, when what they really want is validation. This is my take: it is wise to discern the need and wiser still to remain mum in some instances, especially in matters of the heart.

When my kids were young I fed them simple, watered-down truth. As they grew older, I added to the truth . . .

I saw this recently- “If I were less concerned with you I should simply say it is very good… This is not how writers help one another”
– Samuel Beckett

I imagine that it must have hurt to be given the cold shoulder for caring.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

I expect you’re right about that desire for validation. Even though she requested my honest opinion, that’s not what she wanted ~> her Ego wanted me to approve of her taste in men.

At some level, she knew she was NOT dating the man of her dreams. That’s why she kept asking OTHERS what THEY thought of him because she suspected he was Mr. Wrong.

As for it being wise to keep quiet, I don’t quite agree, except with young children and those on the precipice of death.

I’m more like Samuel Beckett ~ if someone asks for my honest opinion, I will give it. That’s how we help one another to grow.

livelytwist - January 21, 2015

Validation of ego? of choice? of ….? Yes, I too think that at some level she had her doubts ….

I like to think that just because someone is in an adult body doesn’t mean that s/he isn’t a child in his or her thinking.

We’re different in this respect. I try not to be in a hurry to dispense honest opinion. In my experience not everyone desires to grow or has come to that place where they want to grow.

This is thought-provoking and there’s much to glean from the varied perspectives.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Of course. Some people can’t handle “the truth.” I’m OK with that ~> Vive la difference!

This isn’t a black and white, wrong or right issue. I only know what is right for me ~> I would not mourn the loss of a pseudo friendship or try to prop it up by being less than honest.

5. ericjbaker - January 21, 2015

We’d save ourselves a lot of trouble if we were more honest from the outset. I think a lot of folks fear confrontation, so they tell us what they think we want to hear.

That said, I’ve asked for honesty before and instead received a barrage of pent up hostility and resentment. What can you do? If you fall over yourself to make someone happy, you’ll end up with a strained ACL or worse

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

I agree, Eric. People are so protective of their fragile Egos that they fear confrontation, differing views, and honest opinions. They’re afraid to see others or reveal themselves. As a result, everyone’s walking around wearing socially acceptable masks.

Life is short. I don’t want to wear a mask just so people can pretend to like “me” while the real “me” is hidden away. I don’t want to maintain pseudo friendships with a bunch of scaredy cats. 😛

6. Jill Weatherholt - January 21, 2015

I think friendship demands honesty, Nancy. You did the right thing. Often the truth is hard to hear, which probably explains your friend giving you the cold shoulder. If people ask your opinion, they need to be prepared for an honest answer.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

You and I are on the same page, Jill.

At this point, I seldom volunteer my opinion about people’s fashion sense or taste in men or writing style or daily diets or career choices because my opinion is only an opinion. It’s not a fact or universal truth. Hence, I love the quote: “What you think of me is none of my business.”

I’m convinced that our life aim is more accurate when we look within for guidance about whether we are on the right path for us rather than holding our lives up for a majority vote by polling others about their opinions on our actions.

That said, when asked for my honest impressions, thoughts, or opinions, I share them . . . no strings attached. People can toss them aside if they don’t agree with me with no hard feelings.

7. uju - January 21, 2015

I have very few friends who bother to be honest. Of course they apologise in advance before proceeding, but I imagine they water down the truth a bit before dishing it.

I can’t say I’m ungrateful for that. Truth is good, yeah. But truth delivered with a touch of kindness does something for our pride and dignity. Otherwise you’ll have people hating you for robbing them of pride, rather than granting them the gift of honesty.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

You’re on to something with that last sentence, uju. My friend was annoyed that I did not applaud her choice in men. My honest answer hurt her pride.

But let’s look at my options:

1. Remain silent. Refuse her request. ~ Would she not be able to read between the lines?

2. Tell her a lie to gain her approval. ~ Not an option for me since lying to her would erode the foundation of my life.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

When our thoughts, words, and deeds are not in harmony, we know it. We feel splintered, fragmented and incomplete. When each aspect of our being flows easily to all others, that integrity creates happiness, harmony, and self confidence because we know who we are without using an external reference point.

3. Do what I did. Tell her the truth with a touch of kindness and allow her to decide how to respond.

Her response revealed a truth about who she was and made it easier for me to turn my attention elsewhere without mourning the loss of her friendship.

uju - January 21, 2015

I like no. 2 🙂 Very living testament especially concerning thoughts and actions.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Each of us has to decide where our priorities lie to create a life that “fits like a glove.” For me, honesty is the most solid foundation I’ve found. I’m not willing to compromise my values just to “keep the peace.”

8. Kate Crimmins - January 21, 2015

Much of the time it’s in the delivery. I had a signal with a good friend of mine. When one was going to dish something that was truthful but painful she would say, “spoiler alert, stand by for hurt.” Having said that, some friendships are not destined to survive bumps. I had a great friend who was leaving her husband. She asked me to help her. Her plan was to move out when he was at work. I wasn’t excited about this but I supported her. She later got back together with her husband. He hated me so for helping her. That was the end of that friendship.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

I love that ~> “Spoiler alert, stand by for hurt.”

My signal to her ~> “Are you SURE you want my HONEST opinion?” Even though she said yes, she was lying. 😛

What she really wanted was my “rubber stamp validation” of her choice in men. As you note, some friendships are not destined to survive bumps ~ some are mere childhood playthings, best left behind in the sandbox with our G.I. Joes and Barbie Dolls.

Some friends use us to advance the ball without concern about the cost to us. They are focused on self preservation, not with fostering or forging stronger bonds of friendship. It’s always eye opening when we see their masks slipping.

Had you refused to help, she would have been pissed. Once she got back with her husband, he was pissed. Classic Lose-Lose.

9. anotherday2paradise - January 21, 2015

You absolutely did the right thing, Nancy, but the truth often hurts and so isn’t welcomed. I’m surprised she gave you the cold shoulder though when you were proved right. I would have thought she should value your opinion on things even more, but maybe that’s not human nature. 🙂

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

I see the world as you do, Sylvia. I value frank debate and honest discussion more than pointless platitudes. And I don’t mind a bit that I may be in the minority.

When we stop looking to others for guidance, our life becomes our own. We become Captain of our ship, able to make immediate adjustments and corrections when we veer off course.

10. Grannymar - January 21, 2015

I like honesty and not what people think I want to hear. If I do ask for an honest answer, I look at the eyes of the person I ask, and that way I find the true answer to my question.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

The eyes are the window to the soul.

Although, speaking as an attorney, I have seen witnesses lying through their teeth on the stand without revealing it in their eyes.

Maybe that’s because “no one is home” back there. 😛

Grannymar - January 21, 2015

Nancy, as I hit the send button, I pondered if you would come with a comment about witnesses.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

I couldn’t resist!

11. jannatwrites - January 21, 2015

How exciting to see my words quoted at the beginning – I’m glad you did a post to expand on the situation you mentioned in the comment you’d left 🙂 I still think that honesty is best (it can weed out the people who weren’t true friends.) I think as a friend, we have to decide if our opinion is welcome (i,e, if someone didn’t ask, they may not want it.) As friends, we should keep in mind that if we ask for an honest opinion, we’d better be prepared to give and receive it. We may not like the response, but we asked for it.

As for your ‘friend’ – I think it’s a little disconcerting that lies are so acceptable. I would’ve felt betrayed that I had a bunch of spineless friends that decided not to shed light on what I couldn’t see 🙂

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Agreed x 3!

I just can’t wrap my head around a friendship based on mutual distrust. It’s something, but I wouldn’t call it “being friends.”

If they don’t ask, we can stay mum without self-reproach. In this case, my friend had been dating him for a while. I hadn’t said anything because I figured it would fizzle out eventually without my sticking my nose into it.

At first when she asked, I tried to sidestep the discussion by saying I hadn’t spent much time with him. She insisted on hearing my “insights.” Gulp! “Damn the torpedos, full steam ahead!”

And, yes! Who wants a bunch of spineless amoebas as friends?

12. Kate @ Did That Just Happen? - January 21, 2015

I am with you on this one!

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Final Answer? 😎

13. Crowing Crone - January 21, 2015

It seems to me, more and more as I go along, that intimacy is difficult to maintain and calls for a vulnerability, an honesty that many say they want but few truly do. And yet, who really wants superficial friendships? Apparently many do. Which makes me realize what a misfit I often am in this universe!

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Me too, Joss.

Some people are afraid of being alone. They are willing to be dishonest to gain “friendship” with others. The price they pay for those pseudo-friendships is a lack of integrity and inner harmony because they know they are not being honest with themselves or others. They are wearing masks. As a result, they lose self-esteem and are even more afraid to be alone. And the cycle keeps repeating.

When we put inner harmony FIRST, life becomes one of flow. We stop using an external compass and focus on how WE feel about the decisions we make. We no longer live life by concensus in order to protect our reputations.

Best of all, we no longer fear being alone.

Crowing Crone - January 21, 2015

Yes, be at home with your own precious self and gentle with others whenever possible but never to the detriment of your own soul. Ahhh….that’s better…said a wise woman.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Thanks, Joss. Here’s to being kindly honest.

14. suzicate - January 21, 2015

This is exactly why I have so few “real friends”…so many people want someone to agree with them rather than be honest.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Same here, Suzi. I’d rather have a few friends who are “true blue” than masses of people who only tell me what they think I want to hear . . . even when I’m asking for honesty.

15. thecontentedcrafter - January 21, 2015

I always say what I think 🙂 It sometimes goes down like a bomb – but that just clarifies the relationship for me. I do try, when the subject is sensitive, to say what I have to say gently and with respect. I also don’t like hurting people unnecessarily. I don’t do ‘friendships’ based on phatic communication and it takes quite a bit of time and interaction to become a friend of mine. Otherwise you are ‘someone I know’ or an acquaintance.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Yes! It “clarifies the relationship” for me too. And I agree about being gentle and sharing our thoughts with respect and sensitivity.

I have lots of acquaintances who are fun to be around but few friends that I can count on for honest and open communication . . . and I’m OK with that.

16. Val Boyko - January 21, 2015

As Livelytwist noted, some people want validation rather than the truth. Sometimes we have to be empathetic to their needs rather than being totally upfront and honest.
On the other hand, real friendship should be based on honesty and mutually agreed expectations to talk straight!

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

I don’t see the need to provide validation to others if it requires me to be dishonest. What friend would insist on having me sacrifice my values to bolster their pride and/or feed their Ego? If that’s what they’re after, they may have to look elsewhere.

Sycophants abound . . . especially around water coolers. 😎

That said, if someone is no more than a casual acquaintance, I don’t see the need to share my opinions with them, especially on issues for which they are seeking validation. So perhaps I’d “beat around the bush a bit” rather than making waves by being frank.

Val Boyko - January 21, 2015

It does make me think about the relationships we have and what is important in them! Thanks Nancy.
I do have a friend who looks for validation … and I am happy to give it to her, as she doesn’t get much in her life. Its no skin off my teeth … I am happy to support her and it doesn’t cross any of my own values or boundaries.
At times in life, friendships are shed as we grow and evolve.
Its important to recognize when a relationship no longer meets our own needs or supports our core values.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

I am happy to give validation if I don’t have to sacrifice my values to do so. In the case at point, I could not, in good conscience, tell her that her guy was Prince Charming when he seemed more like a froggie.

And, yes, friendships are meant to ebb and flow. They don’t always last for a lifetime. Some are just for a season.

17. Yolanda M. - January 21, 2015

I haven’t read all the comments Nancy but I do hope you are no longer entertaining this ‘friend’. She’s not worthy of you. I have ‘lost’ more than a fair share of so called friends because they asked for my honest opinion on something and when I gave it, I got dumped. Case in point: an old friend who wanted to know if her husband was cheating on her with one of her clients (he was) and when I told her he was and everyone knew about it, I got dumped. Cheating husband got given a second (and then a third) chance before he finally left her. Val (comment above) makes a very valid point: my friends and I share similar values. Like honesty and openness. Great post Nancy 🙂

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

I get together with her on occasion (for old time’s sake). But not frequently ~ she lives miles away now, so the opportunity doesn’t present itself often.

I’m smiling at your example. Cheating lying husband gets a second chance, but you don’t . . . all because you gave her information she requested. She doesn’t sound like my kind of friend.

18. NancyTex - January 21, 2015

If asked, yes, be honest. What I try not to do is offer a unsolicited and unpopular/ negative piece of feedback or advice.

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Same here, NT. I also try to refrain from offering unsolicited friendly advice because most people don’t seem to appreciate it.

19. Pix Under the Oaks - January 21, 2015

Hmm… I want the truth but I want it from a friend that I value and trust. I might stick my lower lip out for a bit but I listen, question, and say but, but, but, and then I do some thinking. I never ask for advice unless I know I can be a big girl and take what’s offered.

Pix Under the Oaks - January 21, 2015

Nancy.. love your artwork!!!

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Thanks, Pix. The top painting is mine. The bottom painting is from the side of a van I saw in a parking lot. I love that bird!

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Sometimes asking for input from others gives us a chance to see things from a different perspective or to consider other avenues. But their input is just part of the equation.

I’m not inclined to substitute someone else’s judgment for my own because I’m the one who has to live with the consequences.

Pix Under the Oaks - January 21, 2015

I didn’t mean that I would take the advice that was offered, I meant that I could handle what was said.

“I’m not inclined to substitute someone else’s judgment for my own because I’m the one who has to live with the consequences.” Agreed!

nrhatch - January 21, 2015

Yes! That’s what I thought you meant ~ ask, listen, evaluate, consider, and then decide based on ALL the info available.

20. L. Marie - January 22, 2015

Oh, Nancy! You did you friend a favor. But I guess she wasn’t ready to hear an honest opinion. If so, she really shouldn’t have put you on the spot by asking.
I have the same issue with friends who ask for my honest opinion on manuscripts. Some have gotten mad afterward. So, I’ve taken to telling people upfront that I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. If you don’t really want to know what I think, don’t ask.

nrhatch - January 22, 2015

OMG, yes!!! Perfect example of people asking for “honest feedback” when what they really want is for us to “bow down to their brilliance.”

I’ve gotten to the point of refusing to do beta reading because writers can be so “prickly” if we are the least bit “picky” about grammar, spelling, timelines, character development, or plot holes.

Warning people upfront that you are not going to sugarcoat anything is a wonderful idea, Linda!

L. Marie - January 23, 2015

“Bow down to their brilliance.” Ha, so true. Some authors can be prickly. Some really don’t believe anyone will find fault with their beloved manuscript. That’s why I don’t do a ton of beta reading either.

nrhatch - January 24, 2015

Some writers refuse to believe they’ve birthed an “ugly baby.” 😛

21. Tiny - January 22, 2015

I so agree with you Nancy! There are people who only want us to agree with them, to boost their already formed opinion. And the irony is that when they change their opinion, we should too…. No need for “friends” like that.

nrhatch - January 22, 2015

Yes! That’s true, Tiny. If they are badmouthing their spouse, we’re supposed to be supportive and agree that Spouse = a Louse. If they change their tune, we’re supposed to do an “about face” and tell them how lucky they are to be reunited with Mr. Louse Spouse.

Life is too short to use an external barometer before voicing opinions.

22. Cecelia Futch - January 22, 2015

I have to agree with you on this point. I often tell people (i.e. clients) that while I may like to hear “nice” words, in actuality the honest words helped me grow the most. The honest words helped me turn my life around, whereas the nice words supported my maladjusted illusions. I warn friends, if they ask, that I will provide honest feedback. And yes, I have lost a friend or two (or three) along the way. But I still say give me an honest friend any day!

nrhatch - January 22, 2015

Me too! Honesty and trust are two of my pre-requisites for friendship ~> a good sense of humor doesn’t hurt either!

23. Behind the Story - January 23, 2015

I was a kindergarten teacher for one year. Commenting on my students’ work was usually a mixture of compliments on their progress and suggestions for improvement. And even though their pictures and letters were five-year-old quality, I felt I was being truthful based on their age, etc. I recognize in myself and others that we like to be supported and praised, so I try to do so whenever possible or at least give my criticism in a kind way. On the other hand, I’m pretty critical (of myself and others), and I hold the truth in high regard, so sometimes I say too much. It’s always a tightrope we walk. (I’ve been told that I have a preference for moderation. Maybe that’s why I have a hard time giving you a definite answer.)

nrhatch - January 23, 2015

Haha! Life is a balancing act. If I were a kindergarten teacher I would praise progress and make subtle suggestions for improvement being careful not to crush their love of learning.

We need not point out perceived flaws in acquaintances (unless our “valuable input” is solicited), but when a friend asks for an “honest opinion,” that’s what I aim to deliver. Of course, these days, it would all be a bit easier. Instead of sharing my thoughts on her guy, I would keep deflecting back to her:

“It doesn’t really matter what I think about him. What do you think?”

Behind the Story - January 23, 2015

You’re right. This kind of answer puts the responsibility where it belongs. She didn’t really want an honest answer from you. She shouldn’t have asked for one.

nrhatch - January 23, 2015

Well, we can be sure of one thing ~ the honest answer I gave was NOT the answer she’d hoped for. :mrgreen:

24. kellie@writingmoment - January 24, 2015

Well I can honestly say I’m glad WordPress put this blog on my ‘you may like’ feed 🙂

I would like to agree with you wholeheartedly and say yes, we have to be honest all the time but I’m not so sure. In your example you said your friend asked for your opinion, so in that instance yes, I would give an honest opinion. But what about the times you are not asked point blank?

nrhatch - January 24, 2015

If you are NOT asked for an opinion, why would you have to provide a less-than-honest response? In that situation, if your don’t want to share your HONEST opinion, why open your mouth at all?

If you find it hard not to butt in, remind yourself ~> “not my monkey, not my circus.” :mrgreen:

kellie@writingmoment - January 25, 2015

Ha ha ha, so true, how have I never heard the not my monkey quote before? I can’t think of a good example right now so I’ll have to agree to keep your mouth shut when not asked 🙂

nrhatch - January 25, 2015

I think that’s my new favorite mantra!

After I retired as Master and Commander of the Universe last summer, life became much easier. 😛

25. beeblu - January 24, 2015

I appreciate the friends who are honest with me but also know that not everybody is looking for honesty. Some people want you to validate their “wrong choices”, but, like you, I’m not prepared to do it. I try and get them to make up their own minds through discussion – “well, what do you think? What does he do that makes you feel good/bad, etc” – if they don’t like it, they shouldn’t ask, frankly.

nrhatch - January 25, 2015

Your modus operandi makes infinite sense, BB. Back then, I was flattered when she asked for my opinion (not knowing that she was asking everybody and their brother).

Now I’d view a similar inquiry as a cop out and encourage her to look within for guidance.

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