Think back to the last time someone asked your opinion on something. Did you tell them the truth? Or a half-truth? Maybe it was to protect their feelings, or perhaps it was self-preservation.
Truth is complicated. There’s a time and a place because ignorance can be bliss and the truth hurts, but it hurts more when things are kept from you… I’m sure there are many more applicable clichés, but really, I think that the key ingredient is trust. It’s probably morally right to be truthful all the time. But the truth has consequences, and knowing whether it’s better to get it all out there and the way to do it is a bit of minefield. When one of my friends offers up a brutally honest opinion or perspective with me, I usually find it refreshing because it grounds me and reminds me not to be so self-indulgent. I’m not saying it doesn’t sting a little, but I think the occasional ego check is valuable.
Trust is important. For a functional relationship with friends there should be a level of fundamental trust that you have each other’s best interests at heart. Actively thinking about this is often what separates the close friends and those ‘situational’ friends who fall out of your world when the context changes.
The other thing total honesty says to me is that the person actually gives a damn, that they appreciate my perspective, or that they value me. They are in no way obliged to give advice or to spill the tea to me, but they trust me and they trust that I care about them enough to be receptive to them. So yes, you should tell your friend that they have something in their teeth, because it shows that you trust each other.
It was because of trust that I could say to my friend that their clothes looked like pyjamas. By being honest with them, not only were they made aware of their crime against fashion, but the friendship was strengthened by the knowledge that they could rely on me for frank and honest advice. When there is good rapport and trust in someone, there is a basic understanding that you support each other and say things from a place of love and respect.
Recently, I was interviewing people for roles at Woroni, and candidates would generally describe one of two different methods for giving criticism. The first involved a criticism sandwich – where the critique would be preceded and followed by positive comments, and they would have to prioritise particularly important feedback so as to maintain the happy ratio. The others would pick up every detail and put it all out there. All I will say is that I think that it shows in the output. How can you address the problems, the issues, the irritants if you don’t know what they are?
Why is it that people feed and eat the criticism sandwich? I propose that it has to do with the level of trust in each other, and the sandwich cart comes out when either of you are not confident that whatever you’re saying will go down well. The criticism sandwich sugar-coats the taste of the filler, which is the important stuff. It’s actually somewhat demeaning of the good things which are lumped together, which appear as though they are only being highlighted for the sake of offsetting the negatives. Nobody likes it when there’s a compliment followed by a ‘but’. It takes time and actual effort to get to the stage where you can serve a pointblank criticism without a second thought. But it’s worth it, because then you know that you’re in each other’s corner (and you spill all the tea then).
So next time you don’t feel like you’re getting the full opinion on your outfit from your ‘BFF’, follow it up! Don’t eat the criticism sandwich, drink to honesty and spill the tea.