Samantha Brick: Scientists say honesty really IS the best policy

You're too fat, your fiance's an idiot and that hairstyle puts 10 years on you: Scientists say honesty really IS the best policy, SAMANTHA BRICK knew it all along

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UPDATED:

07:10 GMT, 14 August 2012

Samantha Brick has decided to be honest with her friends, even if it means hurting their feelings

Samantha Brick has decided to be honest with her friends, even if it means hurting their feelings

Over the course of our friendship I have become used to my friend Lorraine ringing me to whinge down the phone about Hugo, her useless, commitment phobic boyfriend of the past five years.

Last week, she called me in a state of distress after he’d refused to go on the surprise mini-break she had paid for.

In the past, I would have listened sympathetically, injecting the occasional ‘You poor thing’ or ‘They’re all the same’ platitude. Not any more.

This time, I took a deep
breath and, very calmly, told Lorraine that she was a fool to keep
persevering with a loser like Hugo, who was no more likely to marry her
than George Clooney — and if we, her friends, could all see it, then why
couldn’t she

Harsh Maybe. Fair Absolutely.

Taken aback, Lorraine burst into tears and slammed the phone down on me.

I told her the truth because, these days, I find it is the only way to stay true to myself and remain happy.

It
was two years ago that I first adopted an ‘honesty policy’ that has
reduced many of my friends to tears, left some open-mouthed with shock,
and others full of admiration.

Before then, I had been one of life’s people pleasers.

For years, I’d forked out small fortunes to attend lavish hen dos I couldn’t afford, followed by over-the-top naff weddings.

I
have spent decades telling girlfriends that their hideous new outfits
look lovely and their frumpy hairdos make them look ten years younger.

I’ve endured painful dinner parties with dull people I’d rather have stabbed in the eye with my fork than exchanged chit-chat about house prices.

Then, with my 40th birthday looming, I decided that enough was enough: all this niceness and tip-toeing around people was exhausting. From that point on, if I was asked for an honest opinion, then I would give it.

If I couldn’t afford something, I would say so. If I didn’t like a friend’s dress, house, partner or child, I’d tell them.

So when I read that scientists have discovered honesty really is the best policy, I gave a shout of joy.

According to researchers at the University of Notre Dame, an honesty policy can improve your physical and mental health.

They found that those who told little white lies to spare the feelings of others found the experience stressful.

Meanwhile, those who spoke the truth not only felt more relaxed, they also formed better relationships with those they were being straight with. I can certainly identify with these findings.

Samantha told her friend Lorraine to dump her boyfriend Hugo: 'Taken aback, Lorraine burst into tears and slammed the phone down on me'

Samantha told her friend Lorraine to dump her boyfriend Hugo: 'Taken aback, Lorraine burst into tears and slammed the phone down on me'

Simply saying ‘No thanks, doesn’t sound like my sort of thing,’ when a friend invites me to something I don’t want to attend is so much easier than scrabbling around for a genuine-sounding excuse — which you’ll have to try to remember the next time you bump into one another!

Employing an honesty policy can sometimes pay dividends — as it did with my friend Lorraine.

A couple of days after hanging up on me, she called back to thank me for telling it like it is, and for helping her to see she really had no future with the horrible Hugo.

Of course, there are always going to be people not quite so grateful for your no-nonsense approach — people like my gym instructor.

A few months ago, while shopping in my local market, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see the woman I had paid to whip me into shape staring back at me.

I hadn’t been to her classes for weeks, and she wanted to know why.

'My bluntness was rewarded with an icy stare'

My instinct was to trot out the ‘been so busy’ excuse, but I knew this would lead to a lecture about how everyone can set aside an hour three times a week to work out.

So instead I just said: ‘I haven’t been to your classes because I don’t enjoy them.’

I was happy to leave it at that, but she pushed for more information and there was no holding me back.

I told her the classes were boring, no longer a challenge and for someone who does this for a living she was in surprisingly bad shape herself. In fact, I said, my 87-year-old gran was more supple than she was.

My bluntness was rewarded with a death stare that could have melted the polar ice cap.

I’m sure she thought I was unspeakably rude. I disagree. I was honestly answering a question she had posed. If she isn’t any good at what she’s doing, am I not right to let her know

What I have discovered is that very often when people ask you a question, they do not want (or expect) an honest reply.

I have a friend — well, a former friend — who has gained a lot of weight since I first met her.

Every time we meet, she always asks: ‘Do I look fat to you’ Previously I’ve lied and told her no, of course she doesn’t. But a year ago, when she asked me this again, I was honest.

I wasn’t mean, I wasn’t bitchy; I just told her she could do with losing a couple of stone.

Not only have I never heard from her since, I’ve been frozen out by a couple of mutual friends, too.

The loss of that friendship did cause me, briefly, to reconsider my honesty policy. Was it really worth sacrificing relationships for After mulling it over, I made the decision that I was going to stick with it. I believe friendship shouldn’t be based on platitudes and insincere flattery.

Samantha insists: 'A genuine friend should feel able to point out home truths without fear of being rounded on'

Samantha insists: 'A genuine friend should feel able to point out home truths without fear of being rounded on'

A genuine friend should feel able to point out home truths without fear of being rounded on.

It’s why, two years ago, my husband Pascal and I declined a wedding invitation. We thought the couple were ill-matched and predicted the union would be short-lived.

We let our opinions be known privately to each half of the couple. Needless to say, we were off the Christmas card list.

But we were proved right. The ink was barely dry on their marriage certificate before it was all over.
Like Lorraine, my friend has told me that though she was upset at what I said, she admires me for it.

That sentiment was echoed by a lady I shall call Queen Bee, who lives in my village. Upset her, and you risk social suicide.

So, I had to stop and think when she invited me to an jewellery party where the trinkets on offer started at a whopping 500.

I considered going and not buying anything, but worried that after a couple of glasses of wine I might be made to feel guilty or be strong-armed into making a purchase.

So, I phoned Queen Bee to break the news I wouldn’t be attending. ‘The prices are ludicrous and, unless I win the Lottery, there’s no way I can afford it, so I won’t be there,’ I told her.

For once she was speechless.

If my friends can't stand the truth… tough

But while everyone, even Pascal, feared this brutally honest reaction would sever our friendship, it’s actually brought us closer together.

In fact, since embracing my honesty policy, I’ve become something of a trailblazer among my friends and family.

Take my French sister-in-law, who is no pushover. She breeds dogs and horses and can make most living beings fall into line with her within seconds.

Normally she doesn’t stand for nonsense from anyone — except, that is, the friend with whom she organises the local annual fete.

For the past eight years, this friend has been in charge of cooking the potato dish for lunch, and every year without fail she over-spices the potatoes to the extent that no one eats them.

Despite this, no one has had the guts to tell her because they don’t want to hurt her feelings.

Hearing this, I hastily introduced my sister-in-law to the honesty policy. Let’s just say the only garnish on this year’s potatoes was a sprig of parsley.

Lying, telling porkies, fibbing — call it what you like — doesn’t do you or anyone else any favours. In fact, I’d argue that you’re doing a disservice to those you love and respect if your relationship is based on falsehoods.

For me, no longer having to weave a tangled web of lies in order to make someone feel better about themselves has been a liberating experience.

And what of the friendships I’ve lost Well, this is where I have to be brutally honest with myself and admit that if they couldn’t withstand a few painful truths, then they weren’t worth much to start with.