How to tell someone they’ve hurt you

You may be friends with someone who is hurting, but they don’t see how their words and actions are hurting others, including you.

Confrontation is always difficult, no matter the person. For some of us, confrontation comes with feelings of guilt, shame, or fear. Maybe your friend is having a hard time right now, and you want to give them grace. Or maybe you’re afraid that speaking up will make you lose a valuable friendship. Either way, it’s worth having the conversation.  And taking time to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to face the outcome will help make it easier. Here are a few tips on how to confront a friend who’s hurt you.

Talk it out with a third party

Having someone who is completely removed from the situation can provide perspective and guidance on how to address the issue. This person can be another friend, a sibling, a parent, a teacher, etc. When thinking about talking it out, consider someone that you can trust—someone you know who won’t tell your friend what you said. Also, think of someone who has been supportive, non-judgmental, and who has offered meaningful advice in the past. You don’t have to go into full detail but talking to them can help you express what you are feeling and find a way forward.

Prepare what you’d like to say

Preparing your thoughts before the conversation will help you get to the root of what you really need to say.  How did they hurt you? Are you trying to point out that your friendship has become negative and toxic? These three steps can help you prepare:

  •  Before you start the conversation, think about what you want from your friend. It’s okay to let them know what you want upfront. Let them know if you want them to just listen, express their feelings, or respond to yours.
  • Start preparing for the conversation. How you decide to prepare for the conversation is up to you. You can write down everything that you want to say, practice in front of a mirror, record yourself, or practice with someone else. Taking time to prepare for tough conversations may help you feel better and more comfortable when it’s time to have the conversation. This worksheet can help you plan out what you want to say.
  • Anticipate questions and reactions in advance. It will help to prepare for the hard questions that will come up during the conversation. Though it may not be their intention, your friend’s reaction to the conversation could hurt.

Manage expectations

Though you hope for the best, your friend might not have to hear what you want to say. Unfortunately, no matter how much you prepare, sometimes conversations, fights, or feelings go unresolved. So, it’s helpful not to go into the conversation expecting everything will work out. Accepting that the conversation can go wrong or leave your friendship in a worse place is not an easy thing to do. But it can help you handle hurt if this does happen. While we want everything to work out, we have to be open to the possibility that it won’t and adjust our expectations to protect ourselves from further disappointment.

Make sure you’re comfortable and safe

Sometimes confrontations between friends get heated. When this happens—or if you anticipate this happening—it’s best to make sure you’re in a comfortable environment. Consider having this conversation in a place that makes you feel safe. You might want to have others around who can step in if needed. Or you may want to have this discussion in a public place.

It’s also okay to establish and re-establish boundaries during the conversation. Tell your friend if what they say crosses a line. You have the right to step away, take a break, and catch your breath during the conversation.

Processing through the outcome.

People might not change, and that means you have to think about keeping yourself safe physically and emotionally. You can only control your own thoughts, behaviors, and boundaries to move in a healthy direction in life. After you confront this person and if it doesn’t go well, self-care is key. Be with someone who does show you healthy love. At some point, we have to let go of something that isn’t healthy for us. It’s possible that at a different time in your life, you can come back to this relationship when both people are in a better place.


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