Unspoken: Friends Talking About Friends
By Patricia Elie
Have you ever secretly talked about your girlfriend’s awful outfit or casually mentioned how you dislike her new boyfriend? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you may have broken one of the most valuable unspoken rules of friendship.
Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about the friend who expresses how she loves your apartment or how much she loved the jumpsuit that you wore last night. I don’t think anyone would have a problem with positive commentary being shared about them when they’re not around. The unspoken rule of friendship that I am referring to is the one that prohibits us from talking negatively about a friend behind his or her back.
You may say that this offense depends on the subject matter of the topic, so let’s say you heard rumors that your friend is caught up in an abusive relationship. After hearing the story, you decide to share your findings with a mutual friend. Did you break the unspoken rule of friendship or does it depend on the chatterer’s intentions? In my opinion, a friendship shouldn’t be severed if a concerned friend is talking about another friend’s safety or well-being. However, a friendship may need to be questioned if that chatter about a friend seems to be about nothing but gossip, or if an individual is sharing their grievances with everyone but the person they have a problem with.
But what if you’re honest with a friend, to their face, and they’re still offended? Friendships are based on honesty, loyalty and trust. In a perfect world, a friend should be able to speak candidly to their friend, but we know that may not always be the case. We’ve all known a person who wasn’t able to handle the truth. As a friend, you may choose to spare a friend’s feelings, recognizing that the person has a track record of not being able to handle what you have to say. That includes keeping your concerns about their new love interest to yourself or your thoughts on the life they live.
However, there’s a difference between knowing when to bite your tongue about your friend’s business because they can’t handle it, and telling everyone else how you feel (you just have to get it off of your chest in your mind) because the friend in question won’t receive it well. For example, you and your girlfriends go to dinner and everyone except for one is slaying from head to toe. You’ve noticed that your friend’s fashion sense has been off as of late. Instead of telling her, you secretly discuss how tacky her ensemble is with others at the table.
Here’s another example: What if your friend’s boyfriend flirts with you and you mention the encounter to everyone except for the friend? While I could understand not knowing whether or not you should tell your friend since it is sensitive information that could impact her relationship, at the same time, it isn’t information that should be passed around to everyone but the person who is affected by it most.
We trust that our friends will have our backs and not repeat something we’ve told them in confidence to others. We expect that when we leave a room, our friends aren’t slandering us. And when we need to sit down and have an honest conversation with them, we also want our friends to be compassionate to our feelings. But if we can’t talk openly with and be respectful of our friends then why have them in our circle?
Patricia Elie is the creator and writer of “Unspoken Web Series,”a dramedy about five fabulously single life-long girlfriends from college who seem to break all the rules of friendships. Subscribe and Watch “Unspoken Web Series.”