You’ve been observing your best friend. You love her dearly, but—-and it’s a big but—- it appears she is headed towards a disastrous marriage. Or maybe she is dating a seriously controlling bad guy, an abusive guy. What do you do?
Do you say it? Do you tell her? Because if you, as a best friend or very dear friend, can’t tell her, who exactly is going to say it? Who is going to help her see what she can’t?
Clearly she is not seeing the whole picture.
Do you love her enough to say these tough things? Do you love her enough to risk facing her anger, her hurt feelings, and possibly a huge emotional outburst?
We worry friends might not like what we have to say. We’re certain they’ll be angry. We don’t know the way to say it. We fear saying it wrong, but deep down we really fear losing them, losing our friendship. The social norm, “Mind your own business” comes to mind. Maybe it’s not our place we say to ourselves. Maybe they won’t want to hear it. Besides, maybe they already know it. Someone else will tell them, we hope. We don’t want to face this difficult conversation.
But no one else is going to tell them. No one will speak up. If we are truly the friend we say we are, we need to be the one. We need to say it because true, deep, loving friends want the best for each other. To be happy, safe, healthy and ideally to not experience pain…or much pain…in life.
Difficult conversations are just that. They include risks. They may trigger unpleasant reactions, but the message to be delivered is important and far outweighs the possible short-term reactions we may experience. NOT delivering the truth, the message, the concern, the perspective includes far greater risks and far worse outcomes than someone being mad at us.
In my distant past, I had relationships with some real unhealthy guys. One in particular was dishonest, massively controlling, and manipulative; and over time, stole from me. Even so, not one of my friends told me the truth of what they saw, not until I was in pretty deep. Now I get that ultimately I was responsible for being in the relationship, but how might my life have been different if my friends at the time told me their truest deepest opinions and insights when the relationship started rather than after it was ended years later? Might I have sped up my personal growth process? Might I have been able to see my patterns in relationship sooner? Might I have moved on to healthy relationships faster? What if, they told me what they saw and feared? Maybe I would simply have been stubborn and continued in the same track. Or possibly, it might have saved precious time. I might have lost less of myself, my credit and even my savings.
Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, right?
Well, what if we added to that:
Friends don’t let friends be disrespected.
Friends don’t let friends tolerate abuse.
Friends tell friends the truth, even when it’s really tough to say.
Here’s the deal. When as friends, we do speak the tough truth, we have to do so with these things in mind:
- Your friend might choose not to listen. And that’s ok. It’s their choice and they may not yet be ready for the life lesson knocking on their door. You still did the right thing.
- They may get defensive. Sometimes the listener is still too mired in their denial, delusion, or pipe dream to see what we see. It’s ok; you still were a good friend.
- Your friend may shut down entirely. Your friend hearing your bad news may show no reaction and appear not to have heard you. It’s ok; they did hear you, no matter how it looks.
- You might become the bad guy. Upon hearing your perspective, your friend may defend their relationship choice and make you out to be the bad guy. That’s ok. You know the truth. You love them enough to speak up.
It’s important to keep in mind that none of us like hearing news that contradicts our feelings, especially those to do with “love” and relationships. Chances are your friend will react less than ideally to whatever tough-love conversation you have with them…at least initially.
As we deliver the news and observe our friend’s response, we must be neutral. We need to be free of judgment. We must keep in mind the bigger picture… the long term well-being of our friends. Upon hearing what we have to say, our friend will need time to process. Time to think things over and maybe then ask more questions.
No matter what her reaction is, know this: your sharing the honest truth planted a seed. Your friend may heed it now, or they may need time to process it, or even to hear it from others. But, you as their true friend have done your part by speaking truth. They and only they get to decide what to do with it.
In my mind a really true friend loves me enough and has the guts to tell me the truth, plain and simple. The real good ones even love me enough to continue loving me even if I don’t “get it” right away. They wait. They give me time.
Have you ever had a friend show up for you at this level? A friend who loves you so much they are willing to piss you off, take the risk you will be ripping mad and even possibly shut them out, to protect you and show what you are not seeing for yourself?
I’d love to hear your stories. Then stay tuned for ” the way to say it” in a tough-love conversation in my next blog post.
P.S. Sorry guys for ignoring you on this post, but in my experience guys tell their buddies when a woman is the wrong one for them. If I’m wrong on that count, let me know your experiences.