November 15, 2013 in Features

Opinion withheld from friend backfires

Washington Post
 

Hi, Carolyn: A good friend recently ended a yearslong relationship. After they broke up, I let her know I had always wondered whether he was right for her.

I had often wondered if I should offer my opinion, but decided that if she was happy, then who am I to criticize her choices?

She is surprised I would see sharing my opinion as criticism and feels let down. My husband and I had a similar situation with another friend and his wife.

Am I a bad friend or are these dear friends placing too much responsibility on me for bad decision-making?

– Trying to Be a Good Friend

As with the imploded relationship itself, the assignment of blame isn’t so tidy.

Well, one part is: The notion that you extended the life of these time-wasting relationships by not speaking up is just buck-passing bunk.

Meanwhile, there’s a fine line between withholding your objections and creating the impression that you have no objections. If my closest confidants put on a show of liking a partner of mine about whom they privately had concerns, I wouldn’t blame the relationship on them, but I would feel lied to by people I trusted.

There’s also this: We can’t expect our friends to have needs or expectations identical to ours, nor can we read minds. Sometimes, we guess their needs wrong. So we listen when they correct our mistakes, and vow to improve: “I’m sorry I let you down. I didn’t know you felt this way – but I understand now, so I’ll do better next time.”

Next, there’s the matter of holding in all your doubts and concerns … until you let them seep (or tumble) out as soon as the breakup’s official. There’s a fine line there, too – the told-you-so line.

And finally, when in doubt: “Do you want my opinion, or just an ear?” From now on, invite friends to state their preference while you have a chance to provide it.


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