There are no guarantees in life that everyone in our inner circle will continue to like us and yet it can be a tough realisation when a good friend, a longstanding relationship, is discovered to be harbouring disdain or even contempt for us and our life choices.
We may have occasionally picked up on some subtle cues, prompting us to pause and reflect on the relationship.
We may have even found ourselves becoming silent or trying harder with them, but if they become openly difficult or offensive, eventually followed by an unenthusiastic apology we may have to question if we really want to live this way. Will we always have to tolerate being treated badly to ensure that our inner circle runs smoothly?
Initial reflections on their rude or unfriendly behaviour may find it best to conclude that it was unintentional, even though you may have vague suspicions about that! But, if an apology did eventually arrive did you feel better for it or instead somewhat cynically guess that it only happened because they’d been caught behaving badly, were hoping to brush it off and then be seen in a better light by those who’d witnessed their ‘remorse’!
Ask yourself, after being hurt by a good friend’s words or actions how you felt about hearing ‘I’m sorry’? What kind of word is it? It’s certainly a word that’s used automatically by many of us several times a day. From letting the door close on the person behind us, to accidentally queue-jumping or even when someone bumps into us, the sorry word often makes an unthinking appearance.
How do you move on when a good friend treats you badly?
There are times when a person’s actions are so divisive that they cause a split in a friendship group, forcing others to take sides. Being the catalyst for this may mean that we feel guilty, remorseful or embarrassed, even if we’ve done very little to cause the initial disruption.
When someone we regard as a good friend is rude, disloyal or offensive we may react by trying our best to win them over, perhaps in some way blaming ourselves, wondering if it’s our fault. It can be tempting to compensate and work hard to persuade them that we’re nice, worthy and deserving of their approval. But surely a time has to come when we accept reality, take stock and accept that their behaviour is their problem. We may find our paths continue to cross, but safeguarding our peace of mind and not giving away our power through becoming stressed, unhappy or unwell is important.
There may follow weeks or months when, due to business or social reasons, we’re required to rub shoulders with someone, a good friend, who has seriously wronged us. Because we still have to meet and mix with them we perceptually ‘accept’ their apology, smile and be civil in return. It oils the wheels of any meetings, disperses tension, allows others to feel better able to relax. But, behind the smile, we will, most likely, have mentally distanced ourselves from the relationship, so providing protection from being too vulnerable and risking the same thing happening again.
The phrase, ‘actions speak louder than words’ has a certain resonance here.
Do you believe their apology or prefer to wait and see how they subsequently treat you? For an apology to be truly acceptable it has to feel genuine and as such, may need to include the specifics of what they’re actually sorry for. A blanket ‘sorry’ can seem rather vague and placatory. But, feeling that there’s some degree of awareness of the distress they’ve caused can help make an apology sound more sincere. And, of course, it’s interesting to await what happens next.
After someone’s said they’re sorry we may feel the pressure to be extra nice, keen to show that we’re the bigger person, prepared to move on. Some people believe that once they’ve apologised the situation’s automatically resolved and the onus is on us to be kind, generous and appreciative of their efforts, even though nothing they’ve said remedies the hurt and damage that’s been caused.
Words on their own occupy a second or two on someone’s lips. Yes, a ‘good friend’ may want to keep the peace by delivering a damage-limitation exercise to smooth over tension. But if an apology isn’t sincere you’re justified in being appropriately polite as you smile, say ‘thank you’, but then walk away.
Following an apology, some evidence of a desire to change, behave better and improve areas of tension would be good. It’s only when we see someone accepting responsibility for their behaviour that we can trust that they’re contrite, intend to treat us with respect and are keen to repair the relationship.
Remember, if you continue to mix with people who don’t value, respect or treat you well you’re not doing yourself any favours and are missing out on opportunities to find a circle of real friends. Value yourself by walking away, even though it might mean losing your old connections and, perhaps for a time, ending up alone.
Fill your life with people and things that feed your soul.
When you fill your life with people and things that feed your soul, that brings you the joy you’ll gradually notice you attract more like-minded people who are supportive and on a similar wavelength to you. When you value yourself you let others value you too.
Susan Leigh, Altrincham, Cheshire, South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. Works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.
She’s the author of three books, ‘Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact’, ‘101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday’ and ‘Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain’, all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.
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