Ask Ava

Ask Ava, Episode 79: "If a friend treats you badly, should you confront them?" (Updated!)

September 30, 2021 Ask Ava Season 1 Episode 79
Ask Ava
Ask Ava, Episode 79: "If a friend treats you badly, should you confront them?" (Updated!)
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 79: "If a friend treats you badly, should you confront them?" (Updated!)

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On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about what to do if a friend crosses your boundaries.

This is Jessica Skultety, Community Outreach Associate at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic violence response organization, providing services at no charge for survivors of dating and domestic abuse for over 40 years.  

Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, if your friend treats you badly, should you confront them?”

Just like romantic relationships of all kinds, friendships can be unhealthy or abusive. Why is this so important? We often get questions from preteens and teens in our community about unhealthy friendships, so this is obviously something that's clearly very common.

Should you confront a friend who doesn’t treat you right? Maybe they’ve called you names, or shared your secrets, or spread rumors about you. These are just a few examples. If you feel safe to do so, speak up! It’s important to let your friend know that you’ve been mistreated.

If you don’t feel safe to say anything, though, talk to a trusted adult for advice on how to handle the situation. This could be a parent, family member, older sibling, coach, or teacher – any adult who you feel comfortable around. Abuse or bullying behavior often get worse, so ignoring the behavior might make it worse in the long run. If there’s an emergency or you are in danger, call 911 or another emergency service right away.

Let’s say you do tell your friend they’ve upset you, and then you try to set a boundary. If they continue mistreating you, seriously consider if this friendship is healthy and safe for you.

Here’s why.

A healthy friendship is when friends have equal power and control to make decisions for themselves and within the friendship. It also makes sure that they are safe and comfortable and that they’re always talking about boundaries. When the balance tips and one friend purposefully gains power and control over the other, that’s when things become potentially unfair and unsafe for the other friend. It can be damaging with lasting effects on your health and safety. And you matter. 

So think about how you want to feel when you’re with a friend. Do you want to feel respected? Part of a group? Able to communicate? Safe? Trusted? Comfortable? Accepted? Understood? Happy? Probably all or many of those things. How about, do you want to feel unsafe? Embarrassed? Pressured? Smothered? Threatened? Shut out or ignored? Probably not.

What are some other signs of an unhealthy friendship? You’re nervous to tell them secrets, or they ask you to share your phone or social media passwords. Does your friend make fun of other people, or make fun of you for liking or dating someone? Do they just say, “Oh, I’m just joking, lighten up,” but their actions still hurt your feelings, even if you don’t want to tell them?

If these things happen more than once (or in a pattern), or they make the other friend feel fearful, unsafe, or anxious, this is a form of bullying or abusive behavior. This is when someone purposefully gains that power and control over someone else. It can happen in friendships and dating relationships. 

Some more abusive friendship signs are:

·       Someone who constantly puts down the other friend and calls them names

·       Your friend blackmails you (for example – “If you don’t do something for me, I’ll share these embarrassing photos or tell your secret or hurt myself)

·       You’re afraid of them and feel like you always have to agree with them

·       Cyberbullying and harassment through technology, like constant unwanted messages

·       Your friend constantly makes you feel guilty about hanging out with other friends or your dating partner, or tells you that you can’t hang out with other people

·       Stalking, either in person or online

·       And pressuring you to do things you’re not comfortable with

You matter and you deserve a healthy friendship. Speak up if you can, but also know when to reach out for support. 

To speak with an expert about dating violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential hotline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning. 

Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.