Before you trust someone's advice, ask yourself these four questions.

We’ve all been there.

At some point in our lives we’ve all had our spirit broken by someone we trusted – a friend who was supposed to build us up, actually took us down.

In a recent post on, author Elizabeth Gilbert shared that she once dealt with a ‘brutally honest’ friend in her 20s. This friend, she says, was more interested in being ‘brutal’ rather than ‘honest’.

Gilbert said 20 years ago when she was having dinner with this person at a Mexican restaurant, her friend asked, “Liz, can I be brutally honest with you about something?”.

When Gilbert replied yes, her friend took “a shiv out of her purse and expertly slid it right between my ribs”. Metaphorically, of course.

The friend told Gilbert she was selfish and lazy, she would never make a living as a writer, that nobody liked her boyfriend, and that she didn’t have the face to carry off her current pixie haircut.

As she sat there stunned, staring at her half-eaten fajitas, her friend put her hand on Gilbert’s and told her that she had to keep her around because she’s the only person who would tell her the truth.

And she did.

“Here’s another example of how dumb I was in my 20s: I actually believed her. Thus, I kept this friend in my life for another five years,” she wrote.

Elizabeth Gilbert has four questions you should ask yourself before you trust anyone. Post continues…

“Whenever I faced a difficult decision or needed an opinion on a sensitive issue, I would return to her and ask once more for the brutal truth—which she would happily deliver, smiling with pleasure as she donned her executioner’s mask and got busy hacking me up.”

Gilbert explains it was the success she started seeing in her professional life – the same success her friend said she’d never see – that made her realise how brutal and unnecessary her friend’s advice was.


She then came up with four questions to help her decide who got to see her work in its early stages and whose opinion she should actually trust:

  • Do I trust this person’s taste and judgement?
  • Does this person understand what I’m trying to create here?
  • Does this person genuinely want me to succeed?
  • Is this person capable of delivering the truth to me in a sensitive and compassionate manner?

If she can answer yes to all four questions, then she can trust that person.

Gilbert says the fourth question is the most important as she learnt the hard way that people who offered her ‘brutally honest’ advice were almost always more interested in being brutal rather than honest.

In this week’s episode of Mamamia Out Loud, hosts Monique Bowley, Mia Freedman and Jessie Stephens all admitted that they’ve had their own run-ins with ‘brutally honest’ friends.

“I had a friend who was Elizabeth Gilbert’s friend,” Jessie said. “She was exactly the same and she would say things like ‘Can I be brutally honest with you?’ and ‘No one else is going to tell you this but this is what everyone is saying.'”

“And she would say awful things – I remember once she said that my boobs made me look fat.”

While Mia said she’s one of those people who’s highly motivated by feedback and criticism – as long as it’s delivered compassionately by someone she respects.

“I’m good at taking feedback from people whose opinion I respect,” she said. “Elizabeth Gilbert taught me that not all feedback is equal. There are a lot of people who will just say horrible things to you, who don’t have your best interest at heart, who aren’t trying to help you, even though some of them will insist they are.”

Monz, on the other hand, doesn’t trust anyone’s opinion.

“I trust myself and I take anything anyone else says with a grain of salt,” she said. “I think the most important thing is to build a sense within yourself of who you are and your integrity and your core.”

Have you ever dealt with a brutally honest friend? 

You can listen to the latest episode of Mamamia Out Loud below.