5 Sitches To Be Honest With A Friend...Without Hurting Her Feelings

From telling her she has bad breath to divulging that her man is cheating, learn from Cosmo's Honesty and Tact 101.
by Tara FT Sering
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First, a shocker: brutal honesty is overrated. While there are things your good friend certainly needs to hear from you, giving it to her like a doomsday announcement is a reflection of poor strategy on your part. Worse, she might even think of you as a mean-spirited bitch out to kick her in the shins. Paul W. Swets, author of The Art of Talking So That People Will Listen: Getting Through to Family, Friends and Business Associates, says, "Instead of creating understanding and closeness, our words sometimes produce the very opposite effect of what we intended. We hurt another's feelings, provoke anger and create psychological distance even when what we really desire are understanding, intimacy, and companionship."

If you get a little tongue-tied about letting your friend in on not-too-savory things, don't think that straightforward talk is the only way to go. Sensitive matters require some tricky editing, also known as tact, and a sincere goal of helping her out. Your ultimate objective: to help out a good friend you mean to keep. This earnest intention should also be coupled with more effort in breaking bad news to her, very gently.

Sitch 1: Single White Female Syndrome

The scene: Just like in the movie, she hardly gives you compliments but is quick to pick on your choices. Ironically, she eats what you eat, wears what you wear, buys what you buy, and sometimes even trumps you on your purchases--thank God she doesn't live where you live. Unless she also dates whom you date (in which case, you should stop being her friend), there's something afoot she might not even be aware of.

Plainly put: You think she's either in love with you, overly competitive, or is simply but annoyingly gaya-gaya.


It might be a simple case of overwhelming admiration for you, or an unchecked insecurity that she's less of a woman than you are. Whatever the situation, it must be addressed if it's driving you nuts and driving a wedge between the two of you. "At one point," says Dang, 27, of her best bud Anne, "we showed up at a party wearing the exact same outfit, down to the shoes!"

Cosmo advice: Bear in mind that insecurity might be a difficult issue for her. Begin the talk with how much you value the friendship and let her know that no matter what, you're not dropping the relationship. After pointing out the problem, ask, "Is there something that's bothering you? Do you want to tell me?"

According to therapist Rose Yenko, copying among teenagers still searching for who they are is normal. But at 27, that's already telling of an identity issue that may be best addressed with the help of a professional.

Sitch 2: Something In The Air

The scene: It's no longer just your imagination--you've seen other people recoil and hold their breath when your friend gets too close to them. Lately, her less than neat-freaky habits have given way to malodorous manifestations. It's been years since she's been to the dentist or perhaps she needs, uh, more showers or a much more effective deodorant that can keep up with her hyperactive, multi-sport lifestyle.

Plainly put: She smells, and she needs to pay attention to personal hygiene.

Cosmo advice:
It must sound like a grade school situation, but halitosis and other body odors know no age. Isa, 26, recalls how she labored too long in calling attention to her friend Melay's big breath stink. She says, "When our boss finally told her to go see a dentist, she was so embarrassed that she even blamed me for not having told her right away!"

You're not doing your friend a favor by withholding such information-other people could potentially make her the butt of jokes. The sooner you tell your friend, the more potential embarrassment you'll save her.

This is a classic awkward situation that calls for a little trick. Bring up the topic of hygiene in a general way and then talk about your concerns about your own hygiene. For instance, say, "Coffee really gives me this weird, warm breath--I sometimes wonder if I have bad breath." This assures her that bad breath and body odor happens to everyone, and that with some earnest effort to remedy the problem, it can be solved.

Then ask, "Do you think I stink? Someone said I do." The lack of self-consciousness on your part will normally give her the confidence to check herself. If she asks about herself, reply with, "A little bit. Did you eat something funky?" Or, "I think maybe you've become immune to your deodorant. I tried this new one and it really works."

Yenko also suggests having the full treatment day as though it were a fun, spa day for the girls. "Have a glamour day and do the whole spa and hygiene thing."

But heads up: Yenko says if your friend is normally a neat person who has stopped practicing good hygiene, it's a telltale sign of possible depression.
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Sitch 3: Unobstructed View


The scene: You've heard the rumors and seen the crime for yourself: your friend's boyfriend--the one who claimed to be on a business trip and is conveniently unreachable on his mobile--dirty-dancing with some chick in what he stupidly believed is the remote island getaway of Boracay. It's not just a lapse in composure, thanks to one-too-many margaritas, and you're sure of it when you see him with the same chick the next day, sober and sweet, sharing a fruit shake. When you see them again on a long, leisurely stroll on the beach at sunset, you decide that, unless he moonlights as a professional escort, this is not official business.

Plainly put: You think your friend's boyfriend is a lying cheat.

Cosmo advice: Unless you have the printed photos to prove support, your declaration that, "Look, your boyfriend is cheating on you," is not going to cut it. Which is exactly what happened to Jane, 31. "I told my friend I saw her boyfriend cozying up to this girl," Jane says, "but he was able to convince her that she's ‘just a cousin.' In the end, I looked like some malicious person spreading gossip. My friend stopped talking to me."

Yenko says, "You have to bear the risk of the messenger being shot. Be sensitive to the situation. Is the truth going to help her or destroy her? If your friend is about to go into a major commitment, such as marriage, with this man, then speak up. It might destroy her at first, but will be more helpful in the long run. Otherwise, if your friend is coasting along with her man with no marriage in sight and is very happy, he may be someone she needs to have at this particular moment in her life."

You always risk looking like the bad guy when it comes to friends and their lying boyfriends. Women tend to give the men they love the benefit of the doubt, and when blinded by passion and romance, may often make excuses for them.

When telling friends that they're essentially being betrayed by someone they trust, be extra gentle and don't involve yourself by editorializing or offering an opinion. Instead, just relay the facts: what you saw, where, and when. Then let her address that problem with her man on her own. What she does about the information from you is entirely up to her.

Sitch 4: Emotional Vampire

The scene: Sure it hasn't been her year, and she's had it rougher than most in the past months, but lately she's taken to what can only be called dumping--on you. She calls you late at night to bitch about her ex, midway through the morning to whine about her boss, right around merienda to vent about her mounting workload, and shortly after work to cry about how tired she is with, well, life in general. For months, you've patiently listened to her whine, rant, obsess, and wail. Plus, every time she comes around to hang out, she zaps your energy by looking glum, keeping mum about what's bugging her this time, taking deep heavy sighs, and generally looking at the world with bleak-tinted glasses.

Plainly put: She's sucking the energy out of you and you can no longer take it.

Cosmo advice:
It's time to bring out the emotional vampire slayer in you, or you're going straight down along with your pessimistic pal. "My friend just kept going on and on about how depressed she was," says Lauree, 25, "that I just didn't want to be around her anymore. I felt guilty about not being there for her, but she had become such a drag. It got to a point that I had to choose between her friendship or saving myself from becoming depressed as well."

In How to Talk to the People You Love, author Don Gabor writes, "People become friends to share their opinions and feelings. Often, we do not know what we think and feel until we hear ourselves speak and see the reaction of the people we value."

Being drained by friends who are emotional vampires could be the result of you not sharing their views and feelings regarding their world. Whereas you want to be upbeat about the news, for example, she succumbs to its gloom. It won't hurt at all to tell your pal why you'd rather look on the upside, and that perhaps she should, too. Tell her that it requires a lot of energy on your part to be happy and that you'd gladly share how you do it if she's interested.

Yenko also suggests giving her airtime--with a time cap. Say, "I can only take a few minutes of this..." Without a time limit, you only serve as an enabler, someone who encourages her to carry on with her behavior.

Sitch 5: Denial Queen

The scene: She parties till she drops, literally, and is irritable the morning after. Whether it's drinking or drugs, her habit is impairing her judgment, causing her to make bad calls at work and in life. She sleeps in and wakes up past noon, making her habitually late for work that it's gotten her supervisor's attention. And yet, for your friend, a party isn't a party without a pill or two. Or, she goes on drinking sprees solo and when she sips, she gulps on until she passes out.

Plainly put: She has an addiction problem.

Cosmo advice: This is, quite literally, a matter of life and death. She's not only toying with her own, but is also poised to harm others. Faced with such a situation, it's not only important that you make sure she gets help--as a friend, it's your obligation. Strong but effective advice is in order.

Carmen, 28, says she learned this the hard way. "I knew my friend was becoming an alcoholic," she says, "but because I didn't want to be so pakialamera, I didn't really insist she seek help. I would just tell her jokingly that she was a lush, but that was it." One night, drunk as usual, her friend drove home and rammed her car straight into a lamppost. She survived the crash and is lucky she hadn't hurt anyone.

Felice, 24, is in the same tight spot, this time regarding a drug-addicted friend who is also her officemate. "By the time she's at work, her body is in crash mode," says Felice of her friend.

Now is the time to give it to her straight. Keep in mind that your intention is to save your friend, to help her get out of her addiction, so focus on the positive rather than a harsh criticism of her messed-up state. Gabor says, "...most people resent pressure to change [and] an overcritical friend can lead friendship to disaster." Give her a compelling reason to help herself, and a good one would be to bring up how good she was before she started abusing alcohol or drugs. You might start with, "Remember that time when we used to run everyday? You were so strong I was sure you could do a full marathon. But this drinking too much is really wearing you out."

But addiction also has a strong social component. "Reinforcement of her addiction might be coming from her circle," says Yenko. "Or from a beloved partner who is also into the same thing." Your friend may not listen if you address the addiction itself, so you may want to bring the issue of her friends and whether or not she really thinks they're good for her.

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