How to tell your friend they've hurt you

Friendships can seem so easy sometimes: I like hanging out with you, you like hanging out with me – boom, we’re friends! It can be that simple, but it can also be tricky. There’s more to being a good friend than just liking the same movies.

Maybe you’ve recognised that something your friend is doing or saying to you is making you feel like crap. You’re thinking of talking to them about the issue, or even ending your friendship. Here are our steps to help you have a direct conversation about friendship issues.

What do you want?

Before you do or say anything, think about what you want to achieve from this chat. Do you want to clear up a miscommunication, address an old argument or grudge, or set boundaries? Whatever it is, make sure it’s clear in your mind before you and your friend meet to talk.

What if you hate confrontation?

If you’re not a fan of confrontation (honestly, who is?!), the following steps will help you feel a bit more comfortable with talking about issues with your friend. Before you chat, you could even let your friend know that you’re a bit nervous and would really appreciate it if they were patient with you.

Write it down

Writing down what you want to say can help clarify your thoughts. Using ‘I’ statements is an effective way to communicate your feelings. Statements that begin with ‘you’, such as ‘You never come to my house’, can seem like a personal attack so your friend might get defensive. Instead, try this: ‘I feel hurt that we don’t hang out at my house...’

You could show what you’ve written to someone else you trust, such as a sibling, parent or another friend.

Time it right

The place and time of the conversation are important. A bit of privacy, and somewhere neutral where you both feel comfortable, will help ease any nerves. You could ask your friend to meet you at a specific time and place for a talk, so that you don’t just spring it on them.

Also consider that it may come as a shock to the person. You might try to avoid having the conversation at a time when it will spoil a special occasion for them, such as around their birthday or before an exam.

Can you do it over text?

Be honest: do you want to do it over text because it’s easier, or does it actually make sense for your friendship? If your main form of communication is texting and you’re used to having in-depth conversations over text, then go for it.

If this isn’t the case, think about meeting up face-to-face.

Get the conversation started

Getting the conversation started can be the hardest part!

  1. Start by telling your friend why this convo is important to you. ‘I really value our friendship, and want us to stay good friends, so I wanted to chat to you about something that has been on my mind lately.’

  2. Use the statements you wrote down. ‘ I’ve been feeling xxx when you do xxx.’

  3. Give them the benefit of the doubt. They might not realise that you feel this way.

  4. Tell them what you want to change. ‘It would be great if you could not say those things in front of other people.’

Be prepared to listen to their point of view

Your friend might be surprised at how you feel, or not know that their behaviour was affecting you negatively. It’s not easy for someone to hear that a friend is unhappy with them, so they might act a little defensive or offer excuses for their actions.

You might also be surprised to hear that something you did played a part. Maybe you felt like you were being excluded from invites or group chats, but after you bailed a few times, your friend may have thought you weren’t interested in hanging anymore.

If you’re feeling this way, you have this opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings. Try not to blame anyone for what’s happened. If you need time to think about it, let your friend know and agree to revisit the topic later.

Respect goes a long way

If one of you gets emotional or angry, take a breather. Five minutes for some fresh air or a walk around the block will help you to calm down.

When things get heated, someone is bound to say hurtful things that they’ll later regret. Treating each other with respect and kindness will help make this conversation a bit easier, and show that you both care about your friendship.

What if your friend doesn’t want to chat?

If you’ve tried to talk with your friend and they refuse to cooperate or are being nasty about it, you could suggest having the conversation at a later time. Maybe your friend needs some time to think about it, or they may be going through other stressful things at the moment and aren’t in the right headspace for this chat.

If your friend refuses to acknowledge they did anything wrong, and you’re the only one making an effort, it can be super draining. At a certain point, and only you know where that is for yourself, it could be time to think about ending this friendship.

Look after yourself

Talking about friendship issues can be tough. It takes a lot of courage to take these steps. Make a plan to do something nice for yourself after you’ve had the conversation, as this will help recharge you. Think of other friends or family members you can hang out with when you need some company, and lock something in with them.

What can I do now?

  • Here are some more tips to help you tackle difficult conversations.

  • If you're not ready to talk to your friend upfront, here's how you can deal with a toxic friendship.