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Thread: How do you tell a good friend he's full of crap?

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    Senior Member Tharmas's Avatar
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    How do you tell a good friend he's full of crap?

    I’m reading a book (which shall remain nameless) written over thirty years ago (so late eighties) by a high school classmate who apparently earned a PhD in clinical psychology. This book was recommended to me by a good friend, another former classmate, who described a sort of life changing experience in reading it, and actually sent me a copy.

    The book is absolute dreck. It uses a lot of alchemical vocabulary and other metaphysical metaphors for the journey of the soul, which longs for re-unification with the One, etc. I studied alchemy and other Western mystical traditions in graduate school, and read enough Jung back then, to appreciate the metaphors, but it soon becomes apparent that to the author, these are not mere metaphors. He writes a chapter developing the “hypothesis” that the soul must perforce reincarnate multiple times, and in the process accumulates good and bad karma.

    Now this guy is a practicing clinical psychologist. His practice evidently concerns helping straighten out the bad karma a patient has accumulated in previous lives. There can be a problem if the therapist and patient have had a run in in previous lives and established bad karma between them. Unbelievable. People pay for this.

    So my problem now is how do I let my friend know my actual opinion without ruining our friendship?

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    Veteran Member Lion IRC's Avatar
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    Why would your friendly critique of the claims in their book ruin the friendship?

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    Elder Contributor Keith&Co.'s Avatar
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    I think you have to pick, your friendship or integrity. Or sincerity, or whatever you want to call it.
    How do you deal with a friend who is making a horrible mistake in how they are raising their kid?

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    Deus Meumque Jus
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    If he can't take your honest opinion without ruining your friendship, you can't. Just passively tell him you enjoyed it, and let life carry on like it would otherwise.

    Nothing is really gained by giving your honest opinion, except a bruised ego.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tharmas View Post
    I’m reading a book (which shall remain nameless) written over thirty years ago (so late eighties) by a high school classmate who apparently earned a PhD in clinical psychology. This book was recommended to me by a good friend, another former classmate, who described a sort of life changing experience in reading it, and actually sent me a copy.

    The book is absolute dreck. It uses a lot of alchemical vocabulary and other metaphysical metaphors for the journey of the soul, which longs for re-unification with the One, etc. I studied alchemy and other Western mystical traditions in graduate school, and read enough Jung back then, to appreciate the metaphors, but it soon becomes apparent that to the author, these are not mere metaphors. He writes a chapter developing the “hypothesis” that the soul must perforce reincarnate multiple times, and in the process accumulates good and bad karma.

    Now this guy is a practicing clinical psychologist. His practice evidently concerns helping straighten out the bad karma a patient has accumulated in previous lives. There can be a problem if the therapist and patient have had a run in in previous lives and established bad karma between them. Unbelievable. People pay for this.

    So my problem now is how do I let my friend know my actual opinion without ruining our friendship?
    Has the author *asked* your opinion of the book?

    If the answer is no, then keep your opinion to yourself. If asked by anyone, you can maintain your integrity by praising what you can—how well it was written, its use of metaphor, the masterful explanation of Jung’s theory of... and leave off your strong philosophical and intellectual disagreements. If pressed or if you feel you must, you can say you really liked /admired/appreciated X but you differ sharply about the significance/importance/interpretation of X. Or Y.

    Be prepared for anything other than full throated praise to dramatically and negatively affect your relationship. And keep your negative opinions to yourself and don’t share with mutual friends and acquaintances.

    Speaking from experience. Was asked to read a self published book written by an old friend. Fiction/not my favorite genre and a bit of a difficult read because of the graphic nature of the overall storyline. Also because main character’s background was largely based on my friend’s childhood and detailed what any of us would describe as abuse but was re-characterized as just male humor. I spent some time praising what I could and offering gentle critique where I thought the story could be stronger.

    I avoided asking or commenting on passages I believed detailed my friend’s treatment/abuse by his father who he had had a terrible relationship with but then somehow recast the entire abusive person who I actually knew as a good man. He wasn’t. My perceptions were shared by other mutual friends although I very pointedly did not tell them about those passages in the book. And I admit I told a couple of people not to read the book due to the content which was about a good guy tracking down a serial rapist/murderer. I knew the topic would be hard for them and when I told them it was about a serial rapist, they decided to pass without my urging.

    I ran my review past a mutual friend and my spouse to see if it was harsh in any way. They told me it was fine and so I hit send on that email. And yes, it did affect the friendship.

    Now your friend is not my friend but in my experience, academics who wrote books are extremely invested in their POV.

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    I play music with a guy who is a truther, believes in illuminatti, and whole bunch of mystical crap. Whenever he brings it up I let him know respectfully about my difference of world view. He is a good guy, but not a great critical thinker. He knows not to discuss the "things he learns on Youtube" with me.

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    I agree with Toni. Unless he specifically asked for your opinion, I wouldn't say anything about the book. Instead I would concentrate on the things that you have in common.

    My next door neighbor believes in all kinds of weird woo. She knows that I don't share her beliefs, but I tell her as long as she's not pushing her beliefs on anyone else, they seem pretty harmless to me. That's one option if he asks you what you thought of the book, since I doubt your opinion is going to change his mind.

    Or, if your friend asks your opinion, I think I would just say that there are too many things in the book that you don't agree with based on your own studies. If your friend is super sensitive, I'd leave it at that. If he can take criticism well, and the two of you enjoy debating without getting angry, then go for it.

    The bottom line is, if this person is really a "good friend", then he should be able to agree to disagree with you, without taking it personally.

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    Veteran Member Lion IRC's Avatar
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    It might be your friend's inevitable rebuttal of your critique that ruins the friendship.
    Can your friendship with this person survive the potential sting when they...return serve?

    Maybe you should rehearse your anti-karma arguments here in this thread first.

    In other words be careful you don't reap what you sow.
    Last edited by Lion IRC; 02-03-2020 at 08:56 PM. Reason: Reap what you sow. See what I did there?

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    With a good friend you should be able to be direct.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    With a good friend you should be able to be direct.
    You should be, I agree.

    BUT a book is like the beloved child of the author. Plus in this particular case, it seems the book departs from orthodoxy of the discipline straight into some serious woo. Those are enormous landmines. There are a lot of deeply held personal feelings involved with both aspects of this. It's not merely an intellectual disagreement between two equals.

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