Tiny Wisdom: Why We’re Not Honest with Friends

“An honest answer is the sign of true friendship.” -Proverb

Have you ever had a lengthy conversation with someone without acknowledging a single thing you were really thinking or feeling?

Maybe someone asked, “How are you?” And, instinctively, you said, “Fine.” Or someone asked, “What’s new?” And your knee-jerk response was, “Not much.” Or someone asked your opinion, and you glossed over what you really think to avoid making waves.

I suspect we do this because we don’t want to burden people with what’s really on our minds, open ourselves up to judgment, or somehow upset them.

The end result is polite disconnection. We keep things simple, courteous, and completely devoid of truth. It’s a choice to be alone together–sharing space, but little else; connecting without really engaging.

We rob people of the opportunity to be there for us when we don’t share what we actually think and feel. We also send a message that we’re not the type of friends who will really be there for them.

It can be scary to speak what’s really on your mind, particularly if you need some guidance and feel vulnerable admitting that you don’t have everything figured out. The truth is, no one does. Sometimes we all need to lean on each other–and that only works if we’re all willing to be honest.

A few days ago, a very kind Tiny Buddha reader offered to coach me on the phone to work through my public speaking nerves. She asked some probing questions, as coaches often do, and I answered candidly, forming some strong insights that I know will help me going forward.

At the end of the call, I felt like I’d made a new friend, and it happened really simply: She was honest with me, I was honest with her, and we met each other as equals, each with our own strengths and weaknesses.

We’re all equals. We’re all struggling with something. We’re all working to let of something. We’re all working to embrace something else. The world would be a far less lonely place if we could remember this and just be honest.

Photo by Big Mind Zen Center

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
  • Keith

    Awesome story…I agree with you!! We need people to bring forth what is deep within us and even to get to know ourselves better!!! That’s why it’s so very important to be honest with our feelings..I believe that we should be happy to express our emotions, regardless of what happens after that!!!

  • Well said, Keith! When we’re able to be honest with ourselves, we’re better able to be honest with other people. And what is friendship if two people are merely saying what they think the other person wants to hear?

  • Maya

    I’m always honest with friends…that’s probably why I don’t have many….However, having a lot of friends might mean I had really shallow friendships…

  • I couldn’t agree more!  I wrote something similar a while back, and I feel like this is a recurring theme in today’s society.  We only post what we want others to see never really letting them know us.  It is very important to be honest with yourself and others.

  • I think the world would be a far LESS lonely place, if people could remember this and just be honest.

    (But that’s just me…)

  • I’ve found that a lot of people tend to tell me what they think I want to hear, instead of the truth. but in reality, I just want the truth. When you gloss over it, it doesn’t help anything. Why even bother, if you’re not going to speak the truth and be honest about things?

  • Kc

    What about the friends who are not honest with themselves so you cannot possibly be honest with them to how they act to others as they do not c it?

  • Wonderful. I love this. Yes, it is often difficult to say what’s truly on our minds, yet through this vulnerability, friendships become strengthened.

  • Anonymous

    It has been my experience that people really don’t want to be lied to but they can’t handle someone that is brutally honest. I’m the kind of person that won’t hold any punches. When asked a question I will try to answer it completely.

    I’ve learned that people want to be coddled; eased into certain things with minimal effect to their well being. They want to know that a person is there, regardless of whether you speak to them or not.

    My thing has always been, if you don’t want to know my answer, don’t ask me no questions.

  • Anonymous

    Or how about the “friends” that say you’re not loyal because you don’t happen to agree with them about how they live or how they think? I don’t think some people even know what friendship truly is.

  • Rebecacristina

    Aren’t we all living in a protective bubble? It’s so difficult to talk to people because you just don’t know who to trust?

  • Hi Lori,Great question, and I like your answers too: “I suspect we do this because we don’t want to burden people with what’s really on our minds, open ourselves up to judgment, or somehow upset them.”

  • Cynthia

    Such honesty is a real great test to gauge if the friendship will last.

    Thank you for such a wonderful post. You cleared something off my mind that happened recently.


  • One thing I notice about myself is that I sometimes have to warm up in order to be really honest with someone, even a good friend. At first, I might say ‘fine” when asked how I am, but if we hang out together, I’ll open up more. I almost have a knee jerk reaction in the beginning, when we’re first met up, of not wanting to open myself. But when we’ve had time to get used to being together again, I can open up more. I don’t think this is a flaw, just a quirk of my personality.

  • I recently wrote in my blog how much speaking out and being honest helped me. I’m using my blog as a platform for how I really feel and it is amazing how much support I have gotten. But you’re right, you have to be honest and give people the opportunity to do so 🙂

  • That’s awesome, Maya. I would prefer quality over quantity. I didn’t always realize that, but now I know for certain it’s much more nurturing to have a few solid relationships than it is to have a massive quantity of superficial connections.

  • I think that’s such a great way to be. I would rather people be real than polite. Not that we can’t deliver things kindly–but if I had to choose honesty over sugar coating, I’d choose the former!

  • That’s great, Taryn! I really love the idea of “dropping the act.” It’s just too exhausting to pretend to be something you’re not.

  • I know what you mean, Melissa. I take a little while to warm up to people, as well. I’ve noticed with some friendships, though, that both people are just waiting for the relationship to get more intimate–and someone has to go first. This is where I’ve been trying to challenge myself: to let myself be honest, even if the other person hasn’t let their guard down yet.

  • You’re most welcome, Cynthia. I’m glad it helped!

  • Thanks Tom!

  • I know what you mean. The tough part is that we can’t possibly know unless we try. The only way to know if someone will be there for us is to give them that chance. Sometimes people have disappointed me, but it’s the only way to get to the people who won’t.

  • I think authenticity is becoming a big topic on the web, particularly because we spend so much time plugged in. We can either lose ourselves of find ourselves–it’s up to us.

  • Absolutely! Vulnerability is the test of friendship, I think. In a real friendship, it leads to intimacy, not disconnection.

  • Idofthesoul

    Being honest is a wonderful skill but do not confuse honesty with truth.
    Often people speak “the truth” an example would be: “i just tell it like it is!!” this is not honesty this is just a persons belief, a judgement, advice spoken that can only come from the limits of that persons experiance and values.
    Honesty begins with yourself and ends with acceptance of differant truths.

  • Patricia

    I find this is true with family members too.  If you can’t be “real” with them, it’s sad.

  • Great point. We can communicate what we think and feel without closing down to what other people think and feel.

  • Absolutely! We can either play a role or be our authentic selves and hope that in doing so, it empowers someone else to do that same.

  • Vineeta Makhija

    YEah.. I agree.. friends are really hard to find.. if u’ve great friends who r thr for u no matter wat thn that’s really great.. even I use to have a good friend but he changed a lot n our friendship was broken.. bt d honest part is v shared a great chemistry.. hope I find a modified friend n improvised friend too 😉

  • I have had something on my mind for the past couple of months that I need to tell a friend of mine but I am scared that it will kill our friendship. Well, I can now use this advice to finally say what I need to say. Thanks so much for this!

  • That’s great, Marsha. You’re most welcome!

  • Albert Welch

    In regards to the proverb, there are two types of relationships in which I am totally honest. Total strangers whose feelings I have no need to protect, and total friends who know the truth as well as I do, and are prepared to accept it, and need confirmation as much or more than affirmation.

    I’m least honest with people directly between those poles. People who I am well enough acquainted with to want to get along with them, but but not well enough to be secure in their acceptance of what I have to tell them.

  • Guest

    This is so true and it also works the other way. I find that people who only want to hear what they want to hear are not looking for honesty. They just want me to validate them. Like you said, why do they ask for my opinion then? It makes no sense. I also find that people who tell me what they think I want to hear are just as bad. I don’t feel connected to them. These type of friendships are shallow and superficial because they don’t value honesty. I’ve received pretty horrible advice from some friends in the past. I wasn’t asking for much – just their honest opinion. By the sound of their advice, I could tell that they weren’t being honest; they were just sugar coating it for me. That actually made me feel like they didn’t care or sympathize with me. They felt distant. They felt like strangers or even acquaintances. In my experience, friendships where we have been both honest with each other displayed depth and quality regardless of the length of the friendship. We share what we believe in but beyond sharing, we have respect for each other’s opinion.

  • Alex

    This is all so true. I have no friends because of this. I find that too many people want me to lie to them somehow…then get mad when I tell them what I think. I’ve been called lots of things because of my honesty. Asshole, Jerk, D-bag etc, but the one thing no one can ever call me is a liar.

    One day, I’ll hopefully find some soul out there that enjoys true friendship.


    P.S- This might be an old article, but it was nice to know that there are others out there who like honesty. It gives me some hope, ha.

  • I’m glad this gave you hope, Alex. I think there are a lot of people out there who appreciate honesty. Perhaps it comes down to how it’s delivered. If we speak with tact and compassion, people are usually more open. (I’m not suggesting you don’t speak that way; this is just something I’ve seen in my experience!)

  • Bongstar420

    People are sore losers and don’t like reality…thats why

  • Bongstar420

    Its also characteristic of introverted personality types….a minority population