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Often in my life, I feel like I have to act happy for the benefit of the person talking to me. This happens with acquaintance and coworkers, but also with close family members. So, whenever someone asks me "how are you?" I tend to always answer "I'm fine, thank you".

Now, I have this very dear friend (let's call her Diana) with whom I talk every day online. We get along very well and share personal details. We both have some days where we aren't doing so well and we both have to deal with anxiety/depression.

What are some guidelines I can follow to avoid to ever make her feel like she has to "fake happiness" for me? And, if I know someone who is faking happiness with me (not necessarily this friend), how can I make this person feel like they don't have to do so?

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The best way to let someone know that they can safely be vulnerable with you is to be vulnerable with them. If you let her know openly when you are doing not-so-well, it will send the message that you are not uncomfortable confronting negative emotions, that you are not afraid to open up to her, and that you consider her to be a close friend, someone you are willing to ask for emotional support.

If you are already on a very close friend basis, you can also address it more directly, saying pretty much what you told us, you would like to be on terms where neither of you feels that they have to fake happiness that they aren't feeling.

It will probably be most effective to have this conversation when both of you are having relatively good days, if possible. When already feeling rather depressed, vulnerable or unsafe, it's harder to consider the relative merits of taking a relationship (in this case a friendship) "to the next level" by extending enough trust to openly express your feelings.

Remember that this level of trust and vulnerability with a friend comes with time, and don't press too hard. It's okay to ask gently for her to tell you what is wrong when you suspect she's 'faking happiness', but being too insistent can have the opposite effect if she actually doesn't want to talk about what's bothering her or isn't ready to express her feelings.

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I'm the OP but I already know some of the answers. So here is what I know


Using the "principle of reciprocity":

My mother has the habit of always hiding to my siblings and me when she wasn't okay. When I was a teenager, she often complains that "My daughters never tell me anything (about your problems)" and, one day, my sister told me "Why should we tell her about your problem, if she isn't telling us about hers?".

This made me realize that, if you don't share your problems with someone, they won't share theirs with you. So, in order to avoid having people "faking happiness" for you, don't "fake happiness" for them!

Also, when you act some way toward a person, you are (more or less) implying that you want to be treated the same way by them. For example, if you bring a gift to someone every time you visit them, they are likely to reciprocate and bring a gift to you when they will visit you.

From that, again, if you don't want someone to "fake happiness" with you, don't fake it with them.

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Sometimes even though we want our emotional state to be acknowledged we don't try to prompt that acknowledgment by saying anything. I know this was once the case for myself when I was depressed. At the time I was craving my pain to be acknowledged I wouldn't say anything because it felt like if I did it would lessen the effect. If you notice your coworker seems to be faking to be alright don't be afraid to try to broach the subject unprompted.

you: hey, are you ok?
them: (unconvincingly) yeah, I'm fine
you: you sure you're ok? It looks like you're having a rough day

If they still insist they're alright, don't press them for answers further, either they truly are alright or they're not but would prefer to keep the drama to themselves for now and unload somewhere or sometime else.

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