Why You Should Sometimes Tell Your Friends They’re Full of It

Thank you to everyone who weighed in on the tomatoes-in-plastic-bag awkward conversation I wrote about last week! I really appreciated reading the responses. You all rock.

Thinking about talking to Peter reminded me of another conversation I had when I was in graduate school at Emory.

My friend G. was on a campus bench looking glum.

“I broke up with the nicest girl a few days ago,” he said, hugging himself and slumping down even further. “She was too serious. I don’t want to get too involved.”

“G.,” I said. “You’re so full of shit.”

Startled, G. sat up and looked at me like I was pointing a pistol between his eyes. Handsome, articulate, charming, and very smart, G. wasn’t used to people telling him he was full of it.

Maybe I should have been sympathetic. Maybe I should have let him wallow in his sorrow. But sometimes bullshit is bullshit and you need to call your friends out on it.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, either the woman you broke up with isn’t as spectacular as you say she is or you’re screwing up the best opportunity of your entire life. Either you’re lying to yourself and you don’t really like her or you’re being really really stupid.”

“She is lovely,” G. said, looking much more energetic as he disagreed with me. “We laugh together and have a good time. She’s a good cook. She cares about people. She’s pretty. She’s definitely the nicest person I’ve ever dated. But it was getting too serious… I didn’t want to lead her on…”

“So you just want to get laid all the time and never get serious with anyone? You better go call her before she finds a man more worthy of her. You don’t come across someone like that more than once in your life.”

G. rubbed his chin. “I think you’re right,” he said slowly. “Maybe I really am making a mistake.”

He floated up from the bench and started rushing across campus. Then he sprinted back and kissed me on the cheek. “Thank you!” he cried, running off.

G. and K. got married a few years later. They live in Atlanta and have twin boys (one with blond hair and one with brown hair) and a baby daughter now. K. really is one of the nicest people in the world. And G. is lucky to have her.

Being so forthright with G. could have lost me his friendship. But I felt he was being an idiot so I took a chance and told him what I really thought. What would you have done? Do you nod and smile when friends tell you something you think is baloney or do you call them out on their shit?

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17 thoughts on “Why You Should Sometimes Tell Your Friends They’re Full of It”

  1. This is such a cute story, and with such a happy ending! As far as calling friends out on their baloney goes, I feel that the best and strongest friendships are the ones where you’re able to do just that. And of course, they’re the ones you learn the most from.

    And this closeness can have an added benefit. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, one of my closest friends happens to be someone who also suffers from depression and anxiety. We are so lucky to have each other. When one of us is at the brink, the other pulls that person back into reality. It’s good to have that tough love.
    .-= Steph Auteri´s last blog ..Career Stalled What You

  2. Too funny. I think it’s easier to tell someone they are full of beans if the situation does not involve you … as in your case.

    If they are being a goof in a way that directly involves you or is at least directed AT you, then I think it’s harder to call people on it.
    .-= Roxanne´s last blog ..Guest Blogger- Go Pet Friendly =-.

  3. I try to gauge what type of honesty I think a person can handle. If it’s someone who is fragile, I might ask pointed questions. For instance, just last night I asked a friend, “You’ve been telling about unhappy you are in this relationship for the past year. Every time I see you, you are unhappy. What are you going to do about it?”

    Then, someone like my husband, I might say, “Do you want my opinion?” Assuming he says yes (he usually does), I give it to him unedited. He can take it.

    I think there’s a balance between being honest and giving people information they are ready for (or almost ready for). It’s not always easy to get the balance right, but it’s a good thing to practice.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..I

  4. I appreciated what Alisa said. If people aren’t ready or aren’t open to hearing what you have to say, it can cause huge problems in relationships. I’m glad Jennifer’s story had a happy ending, but they often don’t. How and why we give feedback, and gauging who we’re giving it to, I believe, should always be considered.

  5. Of course this wouldn’t have worked for you to say to everyone, but you obviously correctly gauged your relationship to your friend and his personality. Way to go. I do the same thing fairly rarely, but there’s a time and place to speak the truth — a time when nothing else will do.
    .-= Ruth Pennebaker´s last blog ..Make New Friends- Make Better Plans =-.

  6. Since you asked…! I have to ask myself why I feel I need to give a certain kind of feedback. Is it asked for? I think each sitch is different, as is each relationship and each person in the relationship.
    .-= Merr´s last blog ..The Huge Myth of Control =-.

  7. Interesting post! I think you have to know someone really, really well to do this and make it work. As people age, we retain a few or our old friends, if we are lucky, and somehow do not get as close to new friends as you were to this college fellow. So, no. I don’t think I would find myself in a situation where I would tell someone I felt he/she were making a huge mistake. Sometimes I feel that way with my children, but that’s a different matter. Very hard to tell a grown-up child he/she is making a mistake ….
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..Silent Spring Institute &amp Green Chemistry =-.

  8. For me, it depends on the friendship. If it’s someone, I know well (like my boyfriend), I would be more inclined to call them out than a casual acquaintance. I’m sure your friend is really glad you told it like you saw it. What a cute story!

  9. I have three sisters, and over the years I’ve tried the honesty approach, and it’s come back to bite me. So I’ve gotten really good at reflecting back what I hear, therapist-style. But this sure had a positive result for all!

  10. Wow, this guy owes you big time.

    I’ve been accused of being brutally honest, which I put down to my cultural upbringing (Aussies tend to tell it as they see it. Americans, I’ve found in the 25 years I’ve lived here, are rather fond of euphemisms.)

    Like Melanie, I’ve learned the hard way that not everyone wants to hear your version of the truth. It’s really not my intention to hurt people’s feelings, so I do try to proceed with more caution in this regard.
    .-= sarah henry´s last blog ..Q&A With The Homesteader

  11. I tend to smile and nod. Although I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do.

    At the risk of gender stereotyping, I think that in general you can get away with calling men on their shit more than women. At least in my experience, the way that women tend to react to each other is different. There is much more nice-making. Which has its upsides, but also its downsides.
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..Life Crafting Role Models- Kirsten =-.

  12. Can I just say that I’m ALWAYS that person who calls people on their BS? It just pops out of my mouth, without me knowing it sometimes. Really, why lie? Of course there’s always a time and a place, but in the end, sometimes people just really need to hear another opinion. At the same time, it can get annoying to have too many people tell you what you don’t want to hear. 😉
    .-= Stephanie – Wasabimon´s last blog ..Revisiting My Favorite Lettuce Wrap Recipe =-.

  13. There are some people – and relationships – that make it so easy to be forthright and honest. You just know that the person on the other end is going to listen and respect what you are saying, even if they don’t agree. On the other hand, there are those relationships where you know that your honesty will be greeted with nothing but hostility and defensiveness. Those are the ones where I keep my mouth shut, thinking it’s just not worth it.
    .-= sheryl´s last blog ..Five Secrets to Losing Weight Without Feeling Hungry- Deprived- Grumpy and Cranky =-.

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