My roommate and I threw a housewarming party recently to celebrate our new apartment (which is beautiful, by the way) and took advantage of her "conversation cards" that had random questions to get people talking. One of the questions asked, "What virtue to do value most in a relationship?". This is different than what I usually expect from a relationship type of question. Usually you hear "what do you look for in a boyfriend/girlfriend?" or something similar.
Many people answered with responses along those lines: funny, charismatic, intelligent, etc. There's nothing wrong with those preferences, but, maybe in my slightly buzzed stupor, I thought longer about what I care most about in a person I have a relationship with - of any kind.
After the romantic and platonic experiences I've had, I knew immediately what I would say: honest communication. I add honest because anyone can talk, but communication is about taking and giving, not just spewing your unfiltered emotions and then back tracking to have a clarified message. I've had friendships and relationships where it's only surface level, even the long term ones, and they never survived or grew because the deeper communication wasn't there.
Without honest communication, emotions become bottled up or serious issues never addressed because either both or one of you is too uncomfortable to face the situation. What's so hard about saying what's on your mind?
I know, it's scary. It's scary to tell someone, "You did this and it hurt me. I want to talk about it because I don't want us to have this kind of relationship/treat each other this way because I love you and I want to keep loving you. I want us to grow from this". My boyfriend and I have been able to do this over time and it's made our communication and love much stronger than any other relationship I've ever had. It's forced me to be honest with the other people I love in my life, too.
I have friends who go through hard times and it can difficult to not tell them what they want to hear because I don't want to make them feel any worse, but who is that helping? I'm not saying I give my friends a verbal slap in the face, but I try to help them face the real problem or accept that maybe they were partially responsible for what they're experiencing.
Although it may not be for everyone, I've found that this has made me a lot happier, including many of those who I care about. Honest communication isn't just about expressing yourself but it's also about expressing emotions with another person - how you two work out an issue or how you help one another work out a personal problem.
Don't sugar coat things because you want someone to be happy. To be honest, that's more harmful and somewhat immature. Of course, use your best judgement in a situation, but hold the people you care about emotionally responsible. This is how you grow long lasting and mutually beneficial relationships.