Bonolo Mokua

How honest should you be with a friend?

Friendship , Honesty , Values

Nothing is worse than being lied to. But we’ve all told a “white lie”. We've said, “I’m fine,” when we’re really not, complimented a gift we don’t really like, or, a personal favourite, “Sorry, my phone died,and I had loadshedding”. But in an intimate relationship, a lie is a lie, and being honest requires us to see and value the friendship that we are trying to build.

“In a world that tends to treat people as though they are disposable, honesty allows friends to rely on each other, resolve conflicts effectively, and feel secure in the relationship,” says Heartlines Community Mobilisation Assistant Facilitator, Fana Ndlovu.

Ndlovu, adds that "lies within a friendship often lead to a deficit in trust, and sometimes even the end of the friendship. If the wrongdoer is fortunate enough to be forgiven by their friend for being dishonest, then they have a lot of work to do in terms of rebuilding trust."

Being honest and respectful often go hand in hand. Here are some tips on how to maintain honesty in your friendships while also being respectful:

  1. Choose your words carefully: When expressing your honesty, pay attention to how you phrase your words. Words have the power to build or destroy any friendship. Be mindful of tone and language to ensure that your message is conveyed respectfully. For example, instead of saying, “You really didn’t do that well” when a friend fails at something, perhaps try “I can see you really put in effort with that. Is there any way I can help you improve next time?”
  2. Consider timing and context: Timing is crucial when being honest. No one wants an ‘I told you so’ friend. If you feel like your friend is going down the wrong path, remember to choose an appropriate time and place to share your thoughts or concerns, ensuring that the conversation won't cause unnecessary discomfort or embarrassment.
  3. Use "I" statements: Frame your honesty from your perspective using "I" statements, such as "I feel" or "I believe," rather than making accusatory or judgmental statements. This helps prevent the other person from feeling attacked and fosters a more constructive dialogue.
  4. Be empathetic: Put yourself in the other person's shoes and consider how they might feel receiving your honesty. Show empathy and understanding for their perspective, even if you disagree with your friend's opinion.
  5. Focus on the issue: When addressing a sensitive topic, focus on the specific behaviour or issue at hand rather than attacking your friend’s character. Separating the behaviour from the individual helps maintain respect in the conversation.
  6. Listen actively: Allow your friend to express their thoughts and feelings without interruption. Practise active listening by giving them your full attention and validating their emotions, even if you don't agree with their viewpoint.
  7. Maintain confidentiality: If being honest involves sharing sensitive information, respect the other person's privacy by keeping the information confidential unless they have explicitly given you permission to share.
  8. Acknowledge their perspective: Even if you disagree, acknowledge the validity of the other person's perspective. Respect their right to have different opinions and be open to learning from their viewpoint.

Some of the spaces we find ourselves in have made lying a norm, but when it comes to our friends, each lie that we tell dilutes the friendship and leaves room for mistrust. Remember that if we value honesty in friendships we’ll draw people into our lives who hold the same values as us.

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Bonolo Mokua

Bonolo is a multimedia journalist and content creator at Heartlines. She has experience in online and radio media production and helps spread the Heartlines message on multiple platforms.

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