Telling someone the hard truth.

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Ask A Woman:  Breaking news that might break their pride

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I don’t think you’ve ever answered a question from a woman, so maybe I’ll be the first.  I have a friend who can’t seem to meet women.  I admit, I think he’s a dud, but I don’t have the heart to tell him.  He’s self absorbed, aloof, and I really think he believes he’s coming off as confident.  On one of his dating profiles he goes by the moniker “the Electric Jester.”

Do I get mean and tell this guy the obvious truth?  He has a good heart beneath it all.  But it’s getting nauseating even to be around.  I’m considering just drifting away from him.


Hi Shawna,

The Electric Jester?  Sounds like a vibrator.

I believe in honesty up to a point.  But I also believe that it doesn’t make sense to tell everyone the truth all the time just so you can say that you’re an honest person.  We lie all the time because the people we care about don’t need to know their haircut looks like an ode to Moe, or that their singing voice sounds like hyenas making love.  Anytime you’re thinking about telling someone a painful truth, you have to first consider why you feel compelled to do this.

You mention two different reasons for wanting your friend to change: 1) his non-existent dating life 2) he annoys the hell out of you.  Let’s start with the latter reason.  What you’re saying is that though he has a good heart, he essentially has a bad personality.  In other words, he’s not torturing kittens, but he is so obnoxious he’s hard to be around.  Well, my dear, that sounds like a deal-breaker.  Having a good heart is not a good enough basis for a relationship.  So if you really just want to get out of the friendship, I say let it peter out.  Because your complaint is really his personality, which is pretty permanent at this point.  It’s not like you have an issue with a specific behavior or belief.  He’s not using racial epithets or driving drunk, right?  So what’s the point of telling him, hey, I just can’t stand who you are, peace out.  There’s no need to be cruel.

But if they’re asking for an outside perspective?  Then the rules might change.

But…if you really do cherish his friendship and you simply want to help him find a lady, that’s a valid reason for telling him the truth.  Do this under the guise of helping him edit his online dating profile.  Tell it to him straight–“I think you have a lot to offer women, but your profile is kind of wonky.  Why don’t you let me give it the woman’s touch?”  As you’re tweaking it, say things to him like, “You know, women like subtle confidence.  Don’t come off so brash/in-your-face/self-absorbed.”  This way, you’re critiquing his profile, not his personality.  A word of warning: know that you can’t make him change.  If he has a come-to-Jesus moment himself and realizes he acts like an ass, well that’s super.  But you, Shawna, cannot change the personality of another person and it’s a fool’s errand to try.

Speaking of change…we recently received the following excerpted email from Sean, which deals with a similar, “should I or shouldn’t I point out the faults in my friend” quandary:

I want to help my friend.  She’s 5′ 1″ tall and overweight by about 30lbs.  I thought maybe she was just naturally heavy until I met her Mom.  Her Mom is…I don’t know how to say this without seeming creepy, but let’s just say she looks better than her daughter.  How do I approach her and say “I want to help you lose weight” without getting her angry?  (There’s nothing quite like a woman’s wrath.)

Oh Sean.  You’re right, there’s nothing quite like a woman’s wrath.  Especially this woman.  Let me just put this out there: people who are significantly overweight know it . If they aren’t reminded by every magazine, movie, commercial, and television episode that they don’t fit the standard beauty ideal, then the way they are treated is surely a clue.  I’ve had a couple friends go from being heavy to slender, and they’ve all told me I wouldn’t believe how differently they are treated now that they are thin.  People actually make eye contact with them on the street.  Sales people in stores stop ignoring them.  Plus, if heavy people ever go to a doctor, they are told they should lose weight.  If they continue to gain, then they have to frequently buy new, larger clothing.  Fat people know they are fat, mmkay?

No need to tell someone what they already know.

That said, fat people also have a lot of resources (Weight Watchers, gym membership, South Beach Diet) at their hands IF they want to lose the weight.  We are a diet and body obsessed culture, and most people know that eating less and moving more is how you lose weight.  So either your friend doesn’t want to lose the weight (yes, there are fat people who are happy with themselves just the way they are) or she hasn’t found the motivation yet to do so.  Either way, I doubt your offer of help will be the tipping point to her weight loss.  If/when she decides to lose weight, she’ll have plenty of options available to her.  I guess I’m wondering what your incentive is, Sean, to “help” your friend lose weight.  Does her heaviness affect your friendship somehow?  I’m guessing not.  If you do speak to her about it, she may be angry, she’ll definitely feel ashamed, and odds are it will negatively affect your relationship with her.  So refrain from telling her what she already knows.

How about that–two questions answered in one column.  Beat that work ethic.


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