General Question

wundayatta's avatar

If a friend or an acquaintance asks you for an opinion on something they did, will you lie to avoid hurting their feelings?

Asked by wundayatta (58367 points ) June 16th, 2011

I have a problem with the idea of getting positive feedback I can trust. Basically, if someone compliments me out of the blue, I believe it. But if I ask them what they think about something, I assume that most of the time they will take the easy way out and praise it, whether they think it deserves praise or not. I think that most people don’t want to hurt others’ feelings. Too high a social and time cost if they do tell the negative truth.

I asked a similar question once before, and as I recall, a lot of people said they tell the truth if someone asks for an evaluation.

So, do you lie in order to save someone’s feelings, or are you always brutally honest when asked for your opinion?

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26 Answers

MilkyWay's avatar

I am not brutally honest. I’m subtle in my ways. I won’t ever lie to them but will definitley put the truth across in a mild/polite manner.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I tell them what I think.
There is a way to talk to friends without being mean-spirited about it.Sometimes from a distance XD

Nullo's avatar

I will typically compliment what I genuinely feel to be the good parts. If we’re talking about something that I actually know a lot about, and I find faults, I’ll offer constructive criticism.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

I won’t lie to save their feelings, but I try to be tactful.

syz's avatar

It depends on the situation, the person, and the seriousness of the issue. But in general, I tend toward an honest response.

funkdaddy's avatar

I don’t think most people outright lie. It’s more like if something is 50/50 they’ll go ahead and go with a positive answer.

If someone asks you how an outfit looks, answering “It’s OK” isn’t taken to mean it’s perfectly adequate and acceptable, it’s taken as a negative. So you might bump up your description a couple notches so it’s heard as you intend it.

If someone is asking something important, or I have a strong opinion one way or the other, then I’ll let my friend know in detail with complete honesty.

Personally, to review, you don’t trust solicited feedback, because you think people will spare your feelings. Unsolicited advice is unwelcome and also not to be trusted.

That’s quite a quandry you’ve created. Perhaps you’re overthinking the problem? Take people at face value, give them the benefit of the doubt, and they’ll surprise you.

wundayatta's avatar

@funkdaddy Advice is different from an assessment, particularly if that assessment is a good one.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I understand where you’re coming from, @wundayatta—I’m much the same, in that I don’t trust compliments. I never really thought about it before, but I also am more apt to trust spontaneous, unsolicited compliments more than ones that I’ve asked for.

It is a kind of self-esteem issue, but an odd one in my case. If you were to ask me, I’d tell you I’m pretty awesome, yet I tend to feel like people are just blowing smoke up my ass or telling me what I want to hear, if it comes from outside. Which, ironically, I’m desperate for, the whole outside validation thing.

Anyway, to answer the question, I will always tend toward the honest. I will try really, really hard to soften the blow or be as tactful as possible. I’m not the best at sugarcoating or being diplomatic, but I try really hard.

funkdaddy's avatar

@wundayatta – advice is the communication of an assessment…

Coloma's avatar

No. I am usually very honest, not unkind, but direct.

I recently let go of a friend that had shown me their manipulative/disrespectful side and refused to take any responsibility for their actions and how they effected me over a week long period.
I reminded them that the same issue I was having with them was the exact issue they had at their place of employment. Not asking/consulting with higher management before altering agreements, lack of follow through and arbitrarily doing whatever they want, with no regard or respect for honoring authority and team playing.

Of course this went over like a lead balloon and their reaction told me everything I needed to know. Hence ‘ex’ friend.

I am diplomatic but I will not waste my time and energy arguing with emotional 6 year olds in 50 year old bodies.

King_Pariah's avatar

I prefer to be bluntly honest unless I feel it’d be a hilarious joke to tell them the lie only for them to be teased later and I know they can take it.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

It depends on what they’re asking me. A friend or acquaintance who asks me if they talk to fast or if their English is clear will get a spot on answer, hopefully one with some kind of help or suggestion. If I’m asked something along the lines of, am I fat?, I HATE those questions and try to give my answer with a pause or by saying, “c’mon! it’s not fair to put me on the spot like that.”

Hibernate's avatar

No. I prefer hurting their feeling over lying.
This way in the future they know they can count on me.

[ this is what a true friend does ]

wundayatta's avatar

There’s a difference, @funkdaddy, although I don’t know if I can describe it.

Let’s say I’m a musician. If I ask someone whether they liked my music, they might not want to tell me, “Boy! You guys sucked. Someone needs to get a tuning machine. You were splattering notes all over the place and you couldn’t stay on the same beat!” I don’t really think there is any tactful way of saying that. But I would believe it because most people would pull their punches, I believe.

On the other hand, let’s say someone comes up out of the audience to say, “You guys are really good. Loved your horn playing!” I don’t consider that to be giving advice.

I might tend to believe this person, although I wouldn’t know if she knew anything about music, so I wouldn’t know how representative she might be of other people.

I guess this is what critics and ticket sales are for. If people pay you, then you’re good enough to have them be willing to pay you.

But it seems like pay isn’t the only way of saying someone is good. Because there are people who might not get paid who can do work that is good. I don’t get paid for my writing or my music. Only for my job. So I guess I’m good at my job. But the rest of it? Hard to say.

Cruiser's avatar

People ask me things because they know I am smart and will give them an honest insightful response. I will always ask first though if I can be blunt at the point of knowing my opinion on certain matters may not be what they want to hear.

I will add I recently went through some very major tough decisions I was facing late last year and I asked a lot of people advice on these matters. What I found was yes there was a certain amount of patronizing because of the nature of our relationships. What I learned though was I finally got the answers I was looking for when I was very specific in the question I asked.

“What do you think of my desire to do such and such in this current economic climate while guaranteeing a very restricted ability to do what I want for the next 15 years of my life?” got a much different response from just asking “What do you think of my desire to do such and such”.

Sometimes you just have to be firm and say cut the bullshit!

seperate_reality's avatar

You or I can reason, communicate, with someone else without hurting their feelings or at least make it easier on the person. I like to start out by talking about something the person likes, a hobby or such and then asking this, “can I talk with with about something?”. This gets the person’s attention and can lessen the defensive-mechanism or reaction of the person when discussing a sensitive topic.

beckk's avatar

It generally depends on who’s asking for the opinion. If it is someone I know can handle the truth without getting upset or angry, then I will tell it like it is. On the other hand, if it is someone with a bad temper or very sensitive I will generally tell them my true opinion in a round-about way. I try not to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I’m also not big on lying.

The_Inquisitor's avatar

Usually I’ll tell them in a nice way if I don’t like it. And…it seems people can read me like a book, i still have to learn to hide my facial expressions better

BarnacleBill's avatar

I try to make it constructive, and make it a mix of positive and negative comments, as well as constructive suggestions. I don’t expect people to do what I suggest; I only want them to go back and look at what they’re doing from a different perspective or at least be able to articulate the reason why they chose to do something.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

I have the exact same problem. I never trust it when I ask what people really think, and what they think is positive.

With friends, I try to be honest, although I also try to spin it tactfully or throw a (true) compliment in to soften the blow. Like if you asked how your band did, I might say “Wundy, you guys were really off-key tonight. But I loved how enthusiastic you all were!”

With acquaintances, I don’t always make that effort to be honest. Partly it’s because I think it’s kinda stupid to ask for my opinion when we don’t really know each other that well, and maybe I do think that dress is really cute, but I also wear clown clothes in my free time.

And if it’s someone like a boss or a family member where there are more serious consequences than losing someone to grab gin gimlets with, and I know they’re emotionally unstable, I probably won’t. There are a couple people in which I will not tell them the truth because they’ve thrown such giant temper tantrums in the past over really small criticisms (like saying that this lasagna isn’t bad, but it’s also not your best ever), although I will make an effort to point them away from asking me and relying on me for an opinion in the first place. So really, if you show me that you can handle criticisms, I’m happy to give it to you, but you do have to not fly off the handle in order for me to be forthcoming.

Bellatrix's avatar

I would tell the truth as I see it. They asked for my opinion. I would try not to be harsh about it though. I wouldn’t gloss over the truth, but if the truth was likely to be hurtful, I would try to tell that truth as carefully as I could. I think to do otherwise undermines your integrity and does the person asking no favours.

TheBadPerson's avatar

I tell only the nice truth, those blasted wrongly so-called “honest” websites won’t let me write comments. Negativity is an illusion; things can seem negative when 95% of the time things are positive. “Brutally honest” isn’t honest, I looked the word up in the dictionary: honest means “truthful and moral in speech and behaviour”, so stay away from a brutally honest brother or sister and live in peaceful real places which are ultimately beautiful, make a robot brother, and programme it to be truthful and nice, brutally honest people are cowards.

laureth's avatar

I would tend to be subtle with any disapproval, and I notice the same in others. One way I’ve gotten better feedback in situations like these is to ask slightly different questions. “What could I do to make this better?” is a good one. It gives your answerer a clear path to tell you what needs to be made better, instead of feeling like you’re fishing for approval, or that they will hurt your feelings if they tell you the thing is less than stellar.

Adityaa's avatar

people can be honest without being brutal.

Hibernate's avatar

Yeah but when you are honest you don’t know if what you say is hurting the other person.

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