One of my friends often misunderstands many friendly gestures. One of them is an offer of mint candy is taken as we are suggesting he has bad breath.

It seems he suspects such gestures have a hidden motive, and conversations to have hidden criticisms.

Apart from these misunderstandings, he is a good friend, to me and to our group. Suggestions such as find another friend are really my last resort, and I hope I can make him realize that not everything has hidden meaning.

How can I make my intentions clear? Should I immediately address his concern the moment he misunderstood something?

We are both male and on our late 20's. He does not have any mental disability that I know of, he can socialize just fine and even often find subtle social cues that we don't even realize. We both live in same city in Indonesia.


4 Answers 4


My approach to this situation would be honest, if I offer someone a mint and they say they think it is because their breath smells I would say something along the lines of

"Not really, I am just offering you a mint to be nice"

If you repeat this enough times eventually the other person will stop misreading the situation. Clear communication is something that you both can work on to strengthen your friendship.


In cases where a friend is known to readily suspect actions as having hidden meaning (as you have suggested in the post), it would seem appropriate to preface any offer of things like mints with a disclaimer. "I'm having a mint, would you like one?" Or if the relationship and level of past misunderstanding seems to require more, then tell them outright that you have no hidden agenda, you just want to share a sweet.


I find that openness is always best. As there is a well established rapport already should pay to get through the awkwardness and get to the point.

Starting with some awkwardness of yourself will hopefully get the conversation to the level that there clearly is nothing hidden any more.

Can I really ruthlessly openly share something? I wouldn't say this to just anybody but you are a good friend. [fill in your own horrible anecdote]

Once you have opened up your friend may be able to share as well. If not, the next step is to ask.

Can I ask you a really big question? It is about trust. Do know I trust you and I value you a lot, just as you are. But I have this feeling sometimes that you are a bit .. how do I say this .. distant? As if you do not trust me to be there for you, no matter what? Silly things like [fill in the last/biggest perceived criticism]? You know that is a total non sequitur, yes?


Always put the emphasis on yourself, not your friend.

"I feel like having a sweet. Join me?"

Stress that any misunderstanding originates with how YOU expressed yourself.

If subtlety has been effective in the past, try offering examples where you've been misunderstood by others, with the best intentions, in the past. The "No good deed goes unpunished" approach.

It sounds like your friend is more than a little paranoid. In that case, once you've done your best, try not to take their "hypersensitivity" personally. If the friendship is of value to you, treat it as an idiosyncracy and move on.

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