How To Stop Taking Things Personally with Friends

Friends don’t always like you.

Tonight I had an uncomfortable conversation with one of my best friends.  There were pauses where she would normally have been rattling away.  Subtle voice changes too.

When a friend is talking to you they will usually sound safe.  There won’t be any censoring or processing going on.  If you’re noticing pauses where there weren’t any before and the word choices are slightly more presentable for public consumption than usual,  your friend is angry and probably at you.

I used to take this so personally I couldn’t even figure out what was going on, much less deal with it.  Nowdays I ride it out.  This involves letting the other person talk, asking questions about what they just said, and generally making the conversation a safe place for them.

So after about 20 minutes of this I found out that the really funny story she had told in public (all female, but still) at least three times, was not a story that should have been told in public with her husband there!  Once she was able to let me know that I had made at least several hours of her life really irritating, I was able to apologize and make appropriate agreements about my big mouth for the future.

So we get to still be friends and that’s awesome.

Things to be learned – Trust your gut that something is wrong, but don’t point it all at yourself.  Sure, she was mad at me.  But I never would have been able to get at what if I had been defensive.  I have a lot of friends because I assume its their problem until they tell me otherwise.  Sounds like I’m being narcissistic, but it allows for what’s really going on to surface, and the problem is usually NOT about me.  If you do spend all your time thinking you are the issue, no one has a chance to tell you what their actual problem is.

Whether or not you meant to screw up, really is not as important as the fact that you did.  Stop arguing about your motives.  Assume that other people will realize your motives were pure and you are just a goof.  Apologies are not confessions.  They are treaties that state you will not willfully engage in the same behavior now that you know it hurt someone else. Whether or not you were wrong to do the behavior is only relevant to guilt, shame and finger pointing.  Move past that and make a treaty not to do the behavior to this person so that you can continue to be friends.

If the person is not worth the effort to make that treaty, empathize with their pain and find a new friend.


Things to Remember

1) Anger is not the end of a friendship

2) Allow the other person to talk it out

3) Don’t take it personally unless you absolutely have to

4) Apologies are not confessions, they are treaties about your future behavior

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