10 steps on how to deal with a backstabbing friend

From Wiki How

Keep a calm and steady voice and use words that express your feelings. Avoid making statements that are accusations.

When you realize a friend has been talking about you in negative and detrimental ways behind your back, what should you do? After the initial shock at the sense of betrayal wears off, it’s important to salvage what you can and mend your own feelings. Follow these few steps to get a good friend to stop the backstabbing.

Ask your friend if you can have an important, quiet chat together. Tell your friend that you’ve heard negative rumors about you that were apparently sourced from your friend and that you’re trying to clear up things as quickly and carefully as possible.

Clarify your position. If the things said are only known by that friend, make this clear when bringing it up. There is little point in beating around the bush when this is clearly the case. However, say it kindly and with tact.

Speak Calmy. Yelling and getting over emotional usually doesn’t help the situation. Talk in a calm voice.

Seek out your friend’s side of the story before making assumptions about what has happened. Use open-ended questions to encourage discussion and avoid asking specific ones or grilling your friend. Simply ask what happened. Listen attentively and stay sympathetic.

  • Ask your friend how he or she felt about what they said or did.
  • Avoid interrupting. There may be a temptation to correct things they are saying but don’t; just listen for now.
  • Always talk to your friend away from other people. You can’t have a serious conversation about your relationship issues when other people are around.
  • If your friend won’t answer or evades the issue, persist gently but don’t push. It is important to avoid lapsing into a rant or an angry tirade against your friend, as this will only cause him or her to withdraw even further. Getting caught doing something negative to a friend is beyond embarrassing; it’s mortifying and most people know it’s an issue of broken trust. You’re working with fragility and shame, so take it carefully. If your friend continues to ignore you, don’t persist for now. Say that you’ll get back to them when they’ve had time to reflect on it. Leave time to simply cool off and reserve the talk for another time.

Tell your side of the story next. Keep a calm and steady voice and use words that express your feelings. Avoid making statements that are accusations. Simply explain how their actions have made you feel. Be as nice as possible but don’t sound desperate, accusatory or angry. Stick to the known facts and preface anything you’re unsure about with comments such as “I don’t know if it’s true but X said…”, etc. to show that you are still trying to make sense of the unknown, rather than presuming anything. Don’t mention the person who told you. If they mention names, take your cue from there.

Bear in mind that people who are more removed from you than your friend may have an ax to grind or simply like to stir up trouble. It is important to keep an open mind before launching into accusing your friend of letting you down and spreading rumors about you. Consider what you know about the people who have fed the stories back to you and what their agenda might be. Consider also why you think your friend might have said something she or he shouldn’t have––perhaps something slipped out without meaning to, perhaps a mistaken belief that someone else knew something caused your friend to elaborate or perhaps your friend was clueless about the real intentions of the person she or he spoke with. While your friend’s reasons aren’t excuses for their own behavior over which they have control, they are important aspects for you to consider when working out how you feel about the friendship from this time forth.

Ask your friend if you have done something to bring on this bout of backstabbing. It’s important to know whether you have somehow (even if the logic behind your friend’s thinking is illogical, odd or wrong) contributed to this state of affairs. Perhaps they think that you’ve hurt them in some way and that this is a way of “getting back” at you for something you’ve said or done. Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding. At this point, it’s important to clarify the possibility that your friend sees things in this light.

  • If you have done something to hurt your friend, apologize. Even if you did nothing wrong objectively, apologize for reacting with anger or simply for just what happened. Say something like: “I’m sorry if I hurt you in any way. It does not matter whose fault it is. I apologize for any hurt feelings this may have caused in our friendship and I am sorry that this has happened. Let us both try to put this aside and be friends again.”
  • Know the difference between using “being hurt” by you as an excuse and genuine feelings of being hurt. This is only something you can judge from the circumstances at the time but it should be fairly clear to you. For example, a friend who says she backstabbed you because you owed her money and she was scared of not being able to pay her rent is making a mountain out of a molehill; whereas a friend who says she backstabbed you because you stole her boyfriend may have some justification in feeling hurt (depending on the context).

Tell your friend that you consider that friendship is stronger than rumors and gossip, and that you’re absolutely willing to work through whatever has happened to restore the trust in your friendship and move forward from this episode.

  • Ask your friend what he or she needs from you. This may vary, depending on the situation (namely, whether it arose as a result of envy, a misunderstanding, anger, etc.).
  • Explain to your friend what you need from your friend now. Use the “I-message” formula: I feel _____ when you _______ and I need for you to _______.
  • Be ready to meet both needs. This is where the resolution begins. You begin understanding each other and the situation. As you hear similar needs from each other, the differences are put aside and you are able to work things through. Brainstorm together a few, or as many, ideas of how your situation may be resolved. Try your hardest to meet both needs. There may be room for negotiation and/or compromise. Be ready to give up a part of your needs in turn for making the both of you happy.
  • Tell your friend how you feel about the decision and ask him or her if they’re content with it as well.
  • Be flexible. Perhaps you need to accept that your friend did something very stupid but has a learned a solid lesson and won’t be doing it again. Staying objective allows you to accept the hurt and move on.

Slowly build back trust. Do not let these wounds stay forever and block ability to share secrets or be open and honest with another person. Life brings us trialing moments where trust gets broken, however temporarily or easily. The way in which we respond to that breach of trust says much about our own character as well as about the other person. The more resilient we are, the more likely we are to be merciful and give a person we care about another chance, setting aside outrage as an excuse to stay stuck in being hurt ourselves. Try once more and give your friend another chance, especially given the boundaries you’ve set together from the previous step.

  • Be willing to forgive. Let go of any anger and try to focus on the good things about your friend. He or she will come around.
  • Talk over any further disagreements and other obstacles. Make this a clear necessity of the friendship going forward, to prevent any real or perceived hurts from festering. More openness should be the key to your future together.

Decide what to do if your friend is not willing to ever discuss or overcome the lapse in judgment and where you feel that the friendship is no longer viable due to a breach of trust or irreparable differences. Perhaps this isn’t the first time it has happened, or perhaps your friend is already moving on from your friendship and this was a cheap shot way to rupture it. In such cases, protect yourself and go into damage control.

  • Stick with the “I statement” method and tell your former friend how you feel. Explain why you no longer feel able to remain friends (breach of trust, a loss of honesty, outgrowing each other, etc.)
  • Realize that while what has happened was disloyal, you cannot shoulder the blame for what happened or use it as a reason to distrust other people from this point. Your former friend chose to do what he or she did and the motivation and consequences rest entirely with them.
  • Talk to someone else you trust, perhaps a parent, a spouse, another friend or even a counselor. Discuss what happened with someone neutral who can reassure you that your hurt is real but that you will also overcome what has happened. It is just important to have a shoulder to lean on at such a time.
  • Avoid seeking revenge. Thoughts of revenge may flit in and out but never act on them. Revenge is all-consuming and has a tendency to cause the person acting in revenge to stoop to the level of the person they’re angry with. Forgive, learn and move on.



Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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