Yesterday I bluntly asked my close friend when he paused for breath “Hey, how come you rarely ask me any questions?
Are you aware that over the last couple of days I’ve done a lot of listening and you’re doing a lot of talking with almost no gaps of silence?”
We had been driving for a long while, during which time he’d been speaking his mind aloud, one thought after the other – comments on the roads, the new highway, the road works, stories about the people he knew, random pieces of driving advice about how to turn corners at speed.
Everything he said – no matter how meaningless and irrelevant – I had to listen to, process, then respond, then repeat, until I felt myself withdrawing, not responding, and becoming increasingly irritable.
My resentment was building, so I concluded I had no choice but to be honest.
“How come you never ask me any questions?”
My friend ended up sharing that he felt bad prying, he figured I’d tell him things if I wanted to tell him things, and in the meantime, he was quite unconsciously filling the silence. As with many human traits that annoy us, it was a simple matter of lack of awareness.
So often we silently rage at our friends, assuming that they’re all selfish pricks who don’t care about us,
only to discover that they just can’t see what’s in their blind spot.
This friend is the very best kind of friend – one of the ones that are happy to take blunt feedback on board thoughtfully without taking it personally, which is why I felt safe to bring it up with him.
He’s also able to give blunt feedback back to me, which I highly value (even though I hate learning shitty new things about myself at the time).
Instead of me becoming irritable and resentful, and him wondering why I was moody and withdrawn, our ability to be completely honest with each other lead to a fascinating conversation where we both learnt more about our needs and blind spots in the friendship and how we could each improve and better meet each other halfway.
Nothing will ruin a friendship faster than silent resentment.
Where there’s resentment, radical honesty* is your best bet.
*In the kindest way you can muster.
To be truly honest with our mates is surely at least as scary as hugging Donald Trump –
but in reality, resentment does a LOT more damage in the long run.
Stewing silently also strips you both of the chance to learn more about each other and talk frankly about how bloody tricky it is to maintain the right balance in a friendship without being too selfish or too giving.
If a friend has been pissing you off lately and you find yourself becoming resentful or irritable,
try a tablespoonful of blunt honesty, a pinch of frankness, and 6 mls of trying-to-understand-where-they’re-coming from.
And just remember, it’s never going to be as bad as hugging Donald Trump.