Most people would probably rank “honesty” as one of the qualities they value most in a friend. In this article, we’ll look at why this trait is essential for a strong friendship and how to become a more honest person.
Why honesty is important in a friendship
Honesty is a solid foundation for a healthy friendship based on mutual respect, trust, and emotional intimacy. When you are honest, it’s also easier to resolve problems and misunderstandings that often arise in friendships.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways honesty can help build, maintain, and improve your friendships.
1. Honesty allows you to get closer to your friends
Opening up about yourself and your life can strengthen the bonds between you and your friends. Research shows that sharing things about yourself brings people closer together. If this is something you struggle to do, our article on how to open up to people may help.
2. Honesty allows you to be genuine around others
It’s difficult to relax around someone if it feels like you need to hide parts of yourself. Your friends might not agree with your views, choices, or tastes, but in a healthy friendship, both people accept or even celebrate their differences.
When you are honest with your friends, you know that they like and respect you for your real self, not for the persona you present to the world.
3. Honesty allows friends to support each other
Good friends assist each other in times of need. If you can’t be honest with your friends, they might not realize when you need help. For example, if you say that you feel “Fine” when you actually feel low or anxious, your friends might not know that you’d appreciate a listening ear.
4. Honesty builds trust in a friendship
Deceit erodes trust in a friendship. If your friend discovers that you’ve told a lie, they might start to wonder what else you’ve lied about. They may start to question your loyalty and pull away from you because they aren’t sure whether you can be trusted to act in their best interests.
5. Honesty can help solve problems in a friendship
Friends cannot read one another’s minds. When there’s a problem in your friendship, it probably won’t get resolved unless you have an honest conversation about it. If you can’t tell your friend when you’re uncomfortable, resentful, or annoyed, they might not realize that they need to make some changes.
For example, let’s suppose your friend has a habit of giving you well-meaning but often unwanted advice. You could try to solve the problem without talking about it. You could change the subject when they start giving advice or stop telling them about your problems.
But although these solutions might work in the short term, you might quickly get tired of having to “manage” your friend’s behavior. Asking them to change may feel awkward, but it might be a more effective way to solve the issue.
6. Honesty can promote personal growth
An honest, true friend doesn’t just tell you what you want to hear. They also tell you what you need to know. Feedback from a close friend can help you grow, even if it isn’t much fun to receive it.
For example, if your best friend tells you that you’ve developed a habit of complaining about the problems in your life during every conversation you have with them, you may feel hurt. But if their honesty forces you to think about how you come across to others, you might make some changes that benefit all your relationships.
7. Telling lies can change your friendship’s dynamic
Lying to someone can change the dynamic between you and weaken your friendship. When you’ve deceived a friend, you might start feeling uneasy or awkward around them. You may start to feel that you’re living a lie.
If your friend picks up on your feelings, they may start wondering what they’ve done wrong, which can create a distance between the two of you. In this situation, you then have to make a tough choice: to come clean, or tell yet more lies about why you’ve started to act differently. Honesty can be hard, but in the long run, it’s usually simpler than being dishonest.
8. Lying can set a precedent you don’t want
In some situations, telling a lie can actively encourage your friend to carry on doing something you don’t like.
For example, let’s say your friend loves to bake. Unfortunately, they aren’t very good at it. Every week, your friend brings you a big tin of cakes or cookies when they drop in for coffee and always asks for your “honest opinion.” If you always say, “Wow, it’s so delicious!” even when the food tastes bad, your friend may assume that you’d appreciate getting new baked goods every week.
It would be kinder to say something like, “I love how enthusiastic you are about baking and that you want me to try the things you make. But in truth, they aren’t really to my taste. It would be wrong of me to lie and have you bring me things that I won’t eat.”
9. Honesty allows us to move on from our mistakes
We all make mistakes. Sometimes, these mistakes can hurt other people. For example, you might forget your friend’s birthday or slip up and reveal something that should have been kept private.
But if you are honest with your friends and admit when you’ve made a mistake, it can be easier for both of you to move on. It’s usually better to acknowledge your actions honestly, give a sincere apology, and try to make amends if possible.
If you need to apologize to a friend, our articles on how to fix a broken friendship and “sorry” messages for a friend may help.
10. Concealing the truth is hurtful
If you hide something important from your friend, they may be extremely hurt if the truth comes out in the future. Most people feel betrayed when they learn that a friend has been keeping secrets from them. If you have something to share with a friend, it’s usually best to do it as soon as possible.
11. Being honest can improve your self-image
Most of us believe that honesty is a great virtue in a friend. If you lie to people around you, your actions will be at odds with your values. This discrepancy can make you feel bad about yourself. When your values and actions are aligned, your self-image may improve.
How to be honest in a friendship
It’s not always easy to be an honest person who acts with integrity. For example, it can be hard to know when you should be brutally frank or tell a small lie to protect a friend’s feelings. Here are some tips and examples to help you be more honest in your friendships.
1. Avoid lying by omission
A lie by omission is still a lie. In general, it’s best not to be selective with the truth. Your friend may discover the full story later or work it out for themselves. This can damage the trust between you.
You might also find our guide on how to be honest with your friends helpful.
2. Tackle important issues head-on
Some people tell lies or hold things back from their friends because they are afraid of conflict or don’t want to upset other people by telling them difficult truths.
If you have this problem, it may help to learn how to tackle issues head-on in a healthy, assertive way. Our guide on how to overcome your fear of confrontation and our article on what to do if people treat you like a doormat may help you develop these skills.
3. Act in your friend’s interests
If you aren’t sure whether to share something true but potentially hurtful with your friend, ask yourself, “Is it in my friend’s best interest to know this?” If the answer is “Yes,” then you should probably tell them.
For example, your friend may not want to hear that their new boyfriend has been seen on a date with someone else. However, if you don’t tell them, they might invest a lot of time and emotions in a relationship with someone who is treating them badly.
4. Keep your promises
One of the key characteristics of honest people is that they are true to their word. When they make a promise, they do everything they can to follow through on it. Do not promise something you know that, deep down, you can’t deliver.
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