Friend or Stranger, Who Gives Better Advice?

  • SumoMe

Every couple of weeks, I go to a fantastic nail spa here in Houston for a mani.  I enjoy going because I find the whole experience relaxing, which may have something to do with the delicious adult beverages they serve… just maybe.  As an added benefit, sometimes I get to hear some truly entertaining conversations.  Whatever… so maybe I am eavesdropping, but let’s be honest in saying that first, it is virtually impossible not to hear other conversations the way that the stations are set up.  Second, don’t judge, you know everyone does it.  While sometimes the conversations are between two girlfriends that have come in together to get their nails done, mostly the conversations are between the customer and the nail tech.

I have been seeing the same nail tech for a while now, as I imagine most people do, and we talk about a wide range of topics; including, but not limited to, the personal stuff.  Although we know many personal things about each other, we don’t socialize outside of the spa.  In fact, everything she knows about me, she knows because I have told her and the same can be said about the details I know about her life.  She has never had the opportunity to witness me in my natural habitat and form her own opinion.  Our relationship exists solely in the controlled spa environment.   I like her a lot, but because we don’t socialize outside of the spa, I think of her as an acquaintance, albeit a good one!

     So, on one particular day, the girl next to me is telling her nail tech about how lately her boyfriend is not paying her as much attention as he once used to.  He doesn’t call her as often,he is going out with his friends and leaving her home alone more frequently; you know the drill.  Then she does what we all do in these types of situations.  She starts making excuses for her boyfriend,  “Well, he really has been so busy at work, and under a lot of stress, and he hasn’t had much time with his friends,” blah blah blah.  This girl is clearly upset, and it is now up to her nail tech to respond with her opinion on the matter.

I have heard this same conversation, or at lease many similar ones, at this same nail spa more times than I can remember.  Sometimes my mani neighbor is talking to the tech, and sometimes she is talking to her friend.  So… it got me thinking, who would give her better advice; the friend, or the casual acquaintance/stranger?

As I pondered this question, I realized something; the conversation with the nail tech always seems to be more candid than the conversation with the friend.  Over the years, I have overheard ladies share some crazy personal details with their nail techs in earshot of a room full of other strangers.  I, myself, feel pretty good about doing the same.  Why is this you ask?  Let’s start with the room full of strangers.  Even though I know other people can hear what I am saying and are possibly enjoying the story as my personal drama unfolds, I am never going to see these people ever again. I am not really concerned about what they think of me.  As for my nail tech, she does not know any of my friends, my husband, or any of my coworkers, all of whom I might be venting about.  She also does not judge what I am saying based on past experiences because she has no expectations where I am concerned.  She is able to look at each situation in isolation and opine.

In searching the blogosphere, I realized that my nail spa is no anomaly.  I came across a blog at, in which she asked her readers if they reveal more to strangers or to friends.  It was interesting to see that the majority of the comments indicated that talking to a stranger was easier than talking to a friend because the commenters felt they could be more candid with the stranger.

I then started to think about the advice I would give my mani neighbor with the boyfriend troubles.  Funny thing was I realized, as a stranger, I would give her a completely different answer than if she were my good friend.  I don’t think it would even be a conscious decision; it’s just the way it works.  If my friend came to me, and she was as upset as this girl appeared to be, the first thing I would do is try to make her feel better.  How you ask?  I may help her come up with more excuses for her boyfriend’s behavior.  I mean, why not?  He is a friend of mine too, and an all-around good guy.  I would get to make her feel better, and make him look like less of an ass.

I am not going to tell her that it sounds like he is losing interest in her and that she should walk away because she deserves better, which incidentally, is exactly what the nail tech tells her.  I don’t tell her this, not because I am not a good friend, but because maybe I have seen my friend and her boyfriend at their best.  Maybe it is hard for me to believe he is ready to give that up.  Even if I think he’s a total asshole, I am probably going to sugar coat it for her. This is because I don’t want to make her feel bad.  Or worse, I don’t want her to be mad at me.  And, based on my volumes of experience with her, I know she is not going to kick him to the curb anyway.  Just maybe, I have already seen her forgive this guy a dozen times for a dozen indiscretions.   I don’t tell her, not because I am a bad person and a bad friend, but because even on a subconscious level I am motivated by certain self-interests.  It is because of my relationship with my friend that I am unable to give her the harsh reality she probably needs to hear.

Even your good friend Sally who always tells it like it is. We all have one in our lives. You know… the one who is more than happy to tell you that your new haircut sucks and that your jeans make you look fat.  But even she has a line that she won’t cross because she is human.  The fact is, after thinking this through, I believe stranger is more likely to tell you the unvarnished truth because they are not weighed down by all the friendship baggage.

Finally, and this is a big one, who are you going to better receive harsh reality from?  I don’t know about you, but if I am getting relationship advice from my friend Judy, whose last relationship just imploded, I am probably going to discount her words, no matter how valid, based on what I know about her relationships.  Friendship baggage goes both ways.  It is also because Judy and I are such good friend that I am far more likely to get defensive and shut down her advice even if she is right on.  I have seen girls get into tiffs at the nail spa and leave barely speaking to each other over a single sentence or misplaced word, all because they feel like they are being judged.

On the flip side, I have never seen anyone get into an argument with the nail tech over her advice, and I don’t believe it’s because she is the one holding the nail file.  I think that somehow, her being a stranger makes it easier to take her words at face value.  It allows us the opportunity to process what she is saying without feeling as threatened.

As I go back through and read what I have just written, I am afraid it may come off like I am saying friends suck.  Let me be clear, there are times when you want to vent and just need someone to make you feel better.  There are times when talking to someone who knows your favorite color and the name of first boyfriend is advantageous, and it feels good to know there is someone who just gets you.  But, if you are looking for unbiased and objective advice, I think someone who does not know your shoe size may be the way to go.

I would love to hear your thoughts…dissenting views from strangers are always enjoyed, but Sally, you can keep your opinions to yourself. Just kidding!



  1. This is a hard question. I think both can give me good advice.

  2. Tracy Lane Proler says:

    Well Congrats on your first blog post Miss Coy! Nice job. I have to say the entire time I was reading this all I could envision was the potential hilarity of me sitting next to you at said nail salon, and the inevitably loud monologues that would ensue at us overhearing Sally and Nancy’s relationship woes….and boy it wouldn’t be pretty! The truth hurts but it’s better than a self tied blindfold! hahaha

  3. Good job on your post. We all definately need a good friend to share things with and give us advice but we have to trust them before they become a really good friend. This takes time to build a relationship around trust. Blessings, Diane Raork

    I look forward to getting your posts. I would be thrilled if you check out my blog.

  4. Donna Roach says:

    Congrats on your blog! I came across it thru the sits girls. I wish you the best of luck. I’m now trying to figure out where to start myself. You did a great job.

    • Jennifer Coy says:

      Thanks Donna! If you need any tips on how to get started,feel free to send me a note through the contact page. I am no expert, but I did learn a lot during the process.

  5. I think the same could be asked about guys vs girls and who gives better advice. As I’ve learned from my husband, come to a guy with a problem, and he immediately starts troubleshooting it. Come to a girl with a problem, and she wants to help comfort you while you’re busy feeling sorry for yourself.

    I think we need both, perhaps at different times – e.g. when you’re bummed about an unsuccessful job interview, the time for strategizing, getting back on the horse, and taking a critical look at your approach is tomorrow…I’m sure even the strongest among us need a day to wallow and feel crappy before dusting ourselves off and getting serious about fixing what we’re doing wrong.

  6. Marilyn Fireman says:

    Interesting observations. I guess you really don’t want to ask relatives if you don’t want to create all kinds of family problems. Stick to your nail tech…. as long as English is her first language.


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