Honest Friends

Cait catches me off-guard.

“Mom, when you’re having a conversation, are you listening or waiting to talk?” she asks.

“Huh,” I say.

“When you’re talking with someone, are you listening or waiting to talk?” she repeats.

I stop what I’m doing, look at her and clarify, “Do you mean, when I’m in a conversation and the other person is talking, am I listening and really paying attention to what they’re saying, or am I just wanting them to hush up so I can have my say?”

“Yeah, that,” Cait answers.

“I try really hard to listen,” I say.

“Sometimes it’s hard to listen when someone is saying something really dumb,” she says.

“Yeah, sometimes it’s a real test.”

“Because, ya know Mom, there’s a lot of dumb things coming out of a lot of people’s mouths. Like they’re not even thinking about what they’re saying,” Cait explains.

“Sometimes people aren’t really thinking; they’re just having a reaction to something and have a need to express that out loud,” I say. “It’s okay not to participate in dumb conversations.”

“How do you do that and not hurt the other person’s feelings?” she asks.

“Just change the subject to something that’s not dumb.”

“But what if they change it back?” she asks.

“You could always tell them you think what they’re saying is dumb. But, of course, you wouldn’t use the word ‘dumb’.”

Cait is horrified at the thought. “I could not do that! Could you?”

“Could and have.”

“No.”

“Yes. Truly good friends count on each other to let each other know when they’re getting stuck in a mental rut. We all need that kind of honest feedback. It’s nice to have someone agree with you or tell you you’re brilliant. It’s also nice to have a friend who’ll tell you when you have spinach stuck in your teeth, or in your brain. That kind of honesty is hard to come by. So treasure it when you find it.”

“Mom, you’re a pip!”

“Yeah, I’ve been told that.”

“By one of your honest friends,” Cait teases.

“Yep,” I smile.

.

Post Script: Michelle (see comments) brought up an important point about how honesty gets used. I’d like to add a note here filling out my thoughts:

When honesty is wielded as a sword, it’s often nothing but a thinly veiled form of self-righteousness. It does nothing to further conversation, understanding, or awareness; rather it mostly just hurts feelings and shuts people down.

But I believe that honesty offered in compassion and understanding, with thoughtfully chosen words –“ a sharing of one’s perspective and experience rather than a pronouncement of TRUTH” offers the possibility for deepening conversations as well as friendships.

Cait and I have also talked about how to evaluate those times when one should speak up and those times when it’s best to say nothing at all.

11 thoughts on “Honest Friends”

  1. What a wonderful conversation between you and Cait. Imagine when more conversations like this happening between parents and kids; then perhaps how today’s kids and teens relate to each other may be vastly different. Thank you for sharing it!

  2. I never cease to be amazed at what Cait’s thinking about. I’m glad to know, J, you’re having the same experience.

    Jan, I think we could spend a lifetime trying to master the fine line between courtesy and honesty, and still have more to learn! LOL!

  3. What a great relationship you have that she asks your advice on everyday (but still socially important) issues like that. The line between courtesy and honesty is a difficult one even for adults to master.

  4. What a wise child you have. :) My daughter is about the same age, and sometimes she really surprises me with the things she comes up with.

  5. Thanks for making that point, Michelle, because I see that I had not clearly done so. And, I so agree, it’s an important distinction to make.

    When honesty is used as a sword, it’s often nothing but a thinly veiled form of self-righteousness. It does nothing to further conversation, understanding, or awareness; rather it mostly just hurts feelings and shuts people down.

    But, I believe that honesty offered in compassion and understanding, with thoughtfully chosen words – a sharing of one’s perspective and experience rather than a pronouncement of TRUTH – offers the possibility for deepening conversations as well as friendships.

    Cait and I have also talked about how to evaluate those times when she should speak up and those times when it’s best to say nothing at all.

  6. What a sweet and interesting conversation to have with one of your children. I’m impressed she came up with the question–many adults don’t see the difference between the two.

    I have to add a tiny thing though–I hear often people say that they are so honest, honest “to a fault.” That they pride themselves on always saying what’s on their mind–such as telling someone their conversation is dumb–and use the word “honesty” to righteously describe their motives. I disagree and think that being an honest person and being a kind/polite person are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to say what is true and also say it kindly–which you rather pointed out in your conversation. I just think honesty should never take precedence over courtesy.

  7. Thanks Rory. You know, it’s funny, I enjoy reading your posts in part because I love Bethy’s age. :)

    So far, they’ve all been good years – each in their own way. Of course, we haven’t hit the teen-age hormonal years. That should be interesting…

    Cait was using “pip” to mean a funny character.

  8. It’s okay, I found it. She’s 11. Oh, I want Bethy to be 11. Her conversations are fun even now, what will she be like at Cait’s age?!

    “Yeah, Dad. Run. Run for your life!”

    Aidez-moi. Aidez-moi.

  9. It is a joy to get up to your posts and observations, Karen. This one is simply sublime.

    I’ve probably asked before how old Cait is, but I read a story like this and I forget again. What wonderful conversations, and so arch!

    And what is a “pip” anyway?

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