Hello everybody, welcome to episode 145 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and today I’ve got a listener asking: “Why won't my friend confide in me?”
It's about a struggling friendship, which is struggling due to the fact that communication is not being done as expected by our listener. Let’s see if we can help her out to take responsibility and get this relationship back on track. Here’s her question…
QUESTION: “One of my best and longest friends has been experiencing a lot of mood swings lately. I’ve known her forever so I know something is up, but she won’t talk about it! I’m worried about her. It’s clear something is wrong and I’ve tried to hint at her to bring it up and talk to me about, but she won’t budge.
This has been happening for a few weeks now, and as time goes on, I think this is really coming between us because I’m more and more reluctant to not talk to her about things that are going on with me. It’s really not bothering me to not be more open with her either. I don’t want to be petty, but if she won’t reciprocate, then maybe we’re entering a phase of our friendship where we play things closer to the chest. Do friendships go through phases like that? I want to be close with her as we always have, but if this is how she wants the friendship to be, then I should respect that, right?”
The Actor-Observer Bias
Oh good. Looks like I get to talk about psychological biases in two out of the last three episodes – my favorite. Honestly my favorite, I’m not joking.
Thank you for sending this question in, but if I’m being honest, you’ve got some work to do here. That’s not a bad thing, by the way. Just an opportunity to rethink your approach and ultimately do better for this long-lasting friendship. So let’s do it.
Today’s lesson is about the actor-observer bias, which is a tendency we have to justify the same behavior in ourselves that we would not in other people.
One example I can use to sum it up nicely would be if you yell at a child for calling someone like butthead, but in doing so, refer to the child as being a brat. Well, it’s ok if you do it since you’re teaching them a lesson and they really messed up, but they aren’t allowed to. Or it’s ok for you to be driving 75 in a 25 because you’re in a hurry to an important meeting, but the other car that does it is being driven by an inconsiderate hellion who’s endangering the lives of the innocent.
You see what I mean? This is the trap you’re falling into with your friend.
Why Won't My Friend Confide in Me?
You talk about being upset that she isn’t opening up to you during a time in which you’re certain something bad is going on.
Yet because of that, something bad is now going on with you, and you aren’t opening up to her about it either, but it’s ok for you to not do it. It’s ok for you to not open up because she won’t reciprocate, and because this is what you think she wants for the friendship and because she’s not bit on any of the “hints” you’ve dropped.
You have your justifications – you’ve referenced a few of them unknowingly and there are probably more. Do you really think she doesn’t have justifications of her own, some of which may be serious?
Understand that if something is indeed going on (which, I’ll give you, there probably is) she has her reasons for not wanting to bring it up as well – reasons that you don’t know about and therefore shouldn’t be judging.
Be patent with her in this time, and readjust your energy to be about your friend hurting rather your ego hurting because she’s not talking to you about it.
Dancing Around the Issue
I know you feel you’ve made an effort and done your due diligence by hinting at the fact that you’re open to hearing her out (and side note, it’s great that you want to support her and hear her out), but hinting at communication is not necessarily going to inspire it.
This is a very passive approach and I would argue that because it’s so passive and indirect, there are now two ways in which you’re not fully opening up to her – not opening up about your own troubles you alluded to outside of her, as well as not opening up about your feelings about her not opening up.
You’re dancing around the issue at hand too, just in a different way.
Friendships and Phases
Now to address your question about friendships entering different phases, yes they do. Friendships are always at risk for changing due to any number of twists and turns that life has to offer.
Sometimes the new phases are desirable, sometimes they aren’t. And sometimes those phases come with different levels of communication.
But this doesn’t sound like one of them to me, because this isn’t a change that’s occurring naturally. This change isn’t born of honesty, it’s born of keeping things from one another, and altering that starts with you even if you feel it’s your friend that starting the trend of not being open with you.
Respectful and Open Communication
If you two are going to enter into a new phase of friendship (again, “if”), let it happen the right way. And the right way does come by respecting her as you mentioned, but respecting her in a way that is proactive and not reactive. That means communicating with her the same way you are with me.
Tell her you’re concerned about her not being more open and that you’d like her to if she’s ready, because you want to help her as her friend. And tell her about that which is bothering you separate from her as I imagine you ordinarily would.
Why Won't My Friend Confide in Me: Conclusion
If at that point she’s still uncomfortable opening up more, that’s when respecting her and giving her space can be done the right way and potentially lead you two into a different phase of the friendship.
That probably won’t happen though, as the chances are she will soon be ready to be honest and vulnerable with you.
But that will be expedited, she will be most at peace, and you will have done right by the friendship if you’re first honest with her the way you want her to be with you.
Thank you once more to the woman who sent this in. Didn’t mean to slap you too hard on the wrist today, so forgive me if it came off that way.
I do think it’s of utmost importance for you to hold yourself accountable though and take into consideration the many reasons why your friend may not be opening up, and the many ways you could be doing so better yourself. This is something I encourage of all people at all times.
Now anyone else out there that has something they’d like help with, please don’t hesitate to share it with us. We’re here to help you, so email your question to advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Nothing’s off limits. Well, mostly. You know what I’m getting at. Everyone, thank you for being here for another one, and staying all the way through. I’ll talk to you again next time. Until then.