Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Whole Truth

Dear Ella
A close friend of mine just bought new furniture. She was very excited when she called and invited me over to see it and give my opinion.
I didn’t think anything of it, as Deb and I go way back and we always consult each other on many issues.
When I got there, I realized she wasn’t kidding. She bought new living, dining and bedroom furniture. She practically redid her whole house!
We did a walkthrough, and she asked me straight out what I thought about each and every piece. I have always been honest with her, as she has with me, and I didn’t feel this situation was any different. However, when I told her I didn’t like her dining room set, she informed me she had bought all the furniture at a bankruptcy sale and it’s non-refundable. She was quite hurt and upset that I didn’t like the dining room. I tried to backtrack, but the damage was done. Was I wrong to give her my honest opinion?
Whole Truth and Nothing But

Dear Whole Truth and Nothing But,
You walked into a trap. Your friend didn’t want your opinion on her new furniture, she wanted to share her excitement with you.
She wanted you to tell her everything was gorgeous, that she has great taste, that she got a fabulous deal. Even without Deb realizing it, all she really wanted was your validation – she was just too excited to think it through, and never expected a negative response.
You can’t take back what you’ve already said, but you can learn from this experience. A truthful opinion can backfire when nothing can be done about the final outcome.
If Deb got a terrible haircut, should you say, “It looks awful, but don’t worry. It will grow back”?
Before you answer the question “What do you think of my new [anything]?” you need to get some facts. Whether it’s as small as a new dress or as large as a new house, get the whole story before you offer your opinion. If the purchase is final, would admitting that you disapprove help in any way? Did telling her you didn’t like her furniture accomplish anything other than hurting her feelings?
You don’t have to come out and lie, but choose your words carefully. You might say something like: “You got a fabulous deal,” or “The furniture fits perfectly in here,” or even “It’s not exactly my taste, but it’s a beautiful set”.
Telling the truth is important, but not necessarily when the situation is a fait accompli. If there’s nothing to be gained by offering a negative opinion, why do it? Don’t dwell on this incident. What’s done is done. Your relationship with Deb will survive. You have learned something from this experience. Once in awhile, when the opportunity is appropriate, skirting the truth may be the gracious thing to do.

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