If you read nothing further, read this: It’s not about you. When friends hurt you, it’s about their stuff. That’s the most important message here.
Sometimes, people hurt us unintentionally. But there are also people out there who aim to wound.
Maybe they lash out in their own pain. Maybe they never learned a healthy way to handle their own stuff.
Sometimes, they can be aggressively mean and sometimes passive aggressive. Backhanded.
But the fact is, when people hurt us, it’s always about their stuff. Not ours. Theirs.
Always. There are no exceptions to this truth.
Their behavior is not our responsibility. We didn’t cause them to hurt us. What’s up to us is what we do about it.
Once, a friend I’d known a long time said something so mean and aggressive to me that she felt she had to qualify it by saying “that’s the way I am.”
It was, in fact, the last conversation I would have with her. Because when I looked back at our friendship I didn’t like what I saw.
Now, I’m not aggressively mean like that to friends and certainly not passive aggressive. I’m a pretty supportive friend. But when I saw her true colors, I realized I had nothing more to say to her.
Our knee-jerk human nature can make us feel that it’s our fault. It isn’t. If someone is mean or unsupportive, it’s about them, even if they want you to think it’s about you.
So here are some things you can do when friends hurt you:
Sometimes, there’s an imbalance in the relationship. One person feels “less-than.” One person is perceived to have “more” of something and the other person covets that. And the “more” can be more kids, happier kids, a better job, more money, you name it. I’ve found this imbalance does not always make for a smooth friendship.
When I developed a circle I had more in common with, I found no mean behavior at all. There was no need for positioning because we were on equal ground. This doesn’t mean you can never have friends who are different, it means that when things go wrong it’s helpful to assess the balance in the relationship.
Another balance issue is how much the other person is there for you and how much you are there for them. If you find yourself always being the one to reach out in support but getting little back, it’s time to reassess.
Maturity levels differ. Some people are further on the evolutionary scale than others. Those who might not be that far along (and this has nothing to do with age) tend to lash out instead of work things through. These are difficult friendships to maintain.
Assess your relationships. Someone once suggested I draw a dot representing myself in the center of a page and then draw three circles equidistant around it. Place your friends one by one somewhere on that diagram, depending on how close you feel to them. It was such an illuminating exercise! Know that people can change position on the chart over time, but each time you do the diagram it’s a snapshot of where those relationships are in your life at that moment. It’s an empowering activity because it’s about how WE feel about the person, not how we think they feel about us.
Finally, weed your garden when necessary. Not all friendships are meant to go the distance. Be willing to let some go when they are no longer positives in your life. And cultivate those that are growing well! More on that in another post.
It’s only human nature to think we’ve done something wrong when a friendship goes bad. It’s good to remember that the bad behavior of others usually has nothing to do with you. Bless them and send them on their way.
Like anything organic, new friendships can grow. My small business has exposed me to some women’s networking groups over the past two years, and while I am really not a sorority-ish type, in those groups I was surprised to find some really wonderful new friends. Good friends. Caring friends. Supportive friends. And because most of us are working in our own businesses facing the same challenges, (and because these are some of the nicest women I’ve ever met) it’s easy to relate to each other.
This spring season is a perfect time to ask yourself how your friendship garden grows, and maybe even do a bit of cultivating and weeding.