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3 Ways to Be an Authentically Positive Friend

You can encourage and support your friends and still tell the truth about hard things. Here’s how.

True friendship
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“Being honest may not get you a lot of friends,” John Lennon is quoted as saying, “but it will get you the right ones.” Lennon, whose friendship with fellow Beatle Paul McCartney was legendary but also famously fraught, challenges us with these words. Where is the line, he asks us to consider, between being honest with hard truths friends might not want to hear, and doing your part to cultivate healthy, lasting friendships?

Today, we might look at this as a challenge to strive for “authentic positivity” in our friendships, the opposite of a toxic positivity that would have us encouraging friends in all things, regardless of what we might feel or observe or know about the challenges of life.

1)  Ask Questions
A hallmark of authentic positivity is a curious mindset, a mentality where you are less locked into “telling it like it is” and more interested in wondering and exploring the possibilities together with your friend. Positive friends ask each other questions, and listen deeply to the answers. If your friendship has a history of welcome advice-giving, your question could be, “Are you looking for ideas, or do you just want me to listen?”

2)  Name Hard Truths
“That’s so disappointing” is sometimes the most positive thing you can say to your friend when they are struggling. Resisting the urge to say, “It’s all going to work out, don’t worry” shows your friend that you see them in their pain, and that you are available to support them in the here and now. That’s not to say you need to dwell in the negative. You can use “yes/and” statements like, “It’s so frustrating that happened at work—AND I know how creative you are, that you’ll find a way to move forward.”

3)  Learn to Apologize—and Ask for an Apology
Every friend misses the mark sometimes. Spoiler alert—that includes you, too. Being authentic in a friendship means having the freedom to say to a friend, “I’m sorry I hurt you.” It also means being able to say, “your words/actions hurt me.” Friendships that stand the test of time have room for mistakes, and for repair. 

What do your most positive friendships have in common?

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