As social beings we yearn for a sense of belonging, and friendships help us achieve this and a lot more. However, making new friends as we grow older seems like an increasingly daunting task. What makes matters worse is when friends let you down, making it even harder to open up with new people and trust others again.
Being let down by people you trust and consider a crucial part of your social circle can result in a great deal of emotional distress, giving rise to emotions like sadness, guilt, shame, and even social anxiety. Handling this emotional response upon rejection can be challenging as well, as it can force us to question the integrity of each potential and existing friendship.
We all have different types of friends in our lives, and we tend to rely on friends from each category for a distinct purpose. Therefore, it goes without saying that you simply can’t expect the same degree of reciprocation from all of your friends, as the depth and intensity of each friendship is unique and can’t be measured by the same yardstick.
In fact, we can feel let down by different people in countless ways, and not all actions – or the lack of them – will impact us in the same manner. For example, I’ve been hurt in the past when a group of friends forgot to invite me to a party, as well as when someone I considered a good friend betrayed me by sharing matters that I had shared with them in confidence.
However, the most heart-wrenching experience of disappointment in friends for me was when I found out that I was merely a friend of convenience for someone I actually considered my closest friend. This experience taught me the importance of adapting my expectations from each friendship. Indeed, friendship goals matter, and it’s important to explicitly set and manage mutually agreeable expectations in each relationship.
The power of friendship can’t be underestimated, yet sometimes our experiences and disappointment with friends forces us to question our relationships. However, it’s important to remember that not every friend will let you down, and some friends will always be willing to stand by you, no matter what the situation.
So, if you're feeling disappointed in friends and wondering what to do with the relationship, here are seven steps that can help you handle being let down by friends in an effective manner.
Sometimes a friend letting you down can make you want to lash out or act in haste. Which is why distancing yourself from the situation and reviewing it objectively with grace and acceptance can prevent any hasty reaction on your part. Start by identifying your feelings and try creating the necessary space and time to process your emotions, as you try to gauge the scenario from a more neutral viewpoint if possible.
We can all be disappointed in friends at some time in our lives
Ask yourself, albeit with kindness: “Why does this make me feel rejected or hurt? Would I have felt differently if it were someone else? Can I try looking at this with a different perspective?”. Indeed, feeling empathy for yourself or others when you’re disappointed in friends may prove to be very difficult. However, channeling acceptance instead of quickly resorting to angry thoughts or impulsive actions can help you realize that the other person didn’t necessarily intend to hurt you.
Most of us have been guilty of feeling overwhelmed and assuming the worst about a friend when they let us down. For instance, I’ve often felt disappointed in friends – sometimes even suspected their intentions – when they hung out in my absence, or when I counted on them to show up for an occasion and they couldn’t make it.
“When friends let you down it’s best to talk openly to them, while addressing the issues in an honest and clear manner. Remember, the goal here is to convey your feelings and to find out what really happened.”
However, we can never really know what’s going on in someone’s personal life, or what kind of crisis they’re experiencing. Indeed, by refraining from assuming the reasons behind someone’s behavior or actions, we can prevent misdirected resentment or anger building up towards them or the situation. At the same time, avoid the assumption that you are to blame for the way they’re behaving currently.
Good communication plays an important role in every healthy relationship, and friendship is no exception to this rule. You may initially feel hesitant to bring up your feelings, or might be tempted to avoid confrontation. However, when friends let you down it’s best to talk openly to them, while addressing the issues in an honest and clear manner. Remember, the goal here is to convey your feelings and to find out what really happened, and not to place undue blame by jumping to conclusions in haste.
Instead of seeming defensive with use of statements like “you are” or “you always do this”, try using “I feel” statements to address the actions that hurt your feelings. Similarly, try listening mindfully, with genuine interest and without judgement when the friend is explaining their side of the issue. Indeed, a healthy discussion can sometimes teach us how to be a better friend and strengthen the relationship further.
When a friend lets you down, you need to talk to them Motortion Films
Now that you’ve addressed the issues and discussed your feelings with your friend, it’s time to try and consider their perspective. Ask yourself if your friend let you down intentionally or perhaps by mistake. Altering your vantage point and regarding the new information unearthed from this discussion can help you view the situation in a new light.
Take into consideration your side of the equation as well. While refraining from self-blame or guilt, consider if your feelings were entirely fair, and if you could have been partially responsible for such a situation to arise. You can now proceed to assess the situation with greater objectivity, and possibly attain closure.
It’s time now for you to take a call, as your friendship probably hangs in the balance. As with any relationship, you need to communicate and manage your expectations in your friendships as well. Start by considering what the friendship means to you, and how your friends respond to your social expectations and needs. Do these friends let you down frequently, making you feel like you’re never good enough for them?
Alternately, a true friend letting you down may have been a one-off or unintentional occurrence. Consider how your friend responded when you communicated your disappointment. Do you feel confident that you were able to work out your differences with them? If the disappointment in friends was an isolated incident, and the conflict was resolved in a compassionate, respectful manner, this may be a true friendship that you should maintain.
“Feeling empathy for yourself or others when you’re disappointed in friends may prove to be very difficult. However, channeling acceptance instead of quickly resorting to angry thoughts or impulsive actions can help.”
On the contrary, if you feel that your friend doesn’t care about you despite multiple efforts from your end, or that you can’t shake the feeling that you’re being used, sadly it may be the right time to end the friendship. Avoid the temptation to take it personally and blame yourself for the relationship not working out. Remember that friendship is a two-way street, and you just can’t keep shouldering all the efforts on your own.
Sadly, despite our best efforts, not all friendships can last forever. However, it’s not your fault that a friendship couldn’t sustain, and you’re not to blame for other people’s actions or preferences. Learning to forgive others and yourself can help you let go of resentment and move forward in life. Opt to take pride in the fact that instead of wallowing in resentment and hurt, you courageously chose to speak up against bad behavior, and did your best to resolve a conflict with grace and respect.
If you’re still unsure about how to proceed when friends let you down, consider seeking professional help. Remember that it’s OK to not be able to handle complex situations like these with ease every time, and that you don’t need to navigate the troubled waters all on your own. A licensed therapist can help you cope better with the emotional turmoil when you’re disappointed in friends. Counselling can equip you with the ability to process such situations with greater ease, helping you lead a life without regret.
While you may not necessarily be able to prevent situations where you feel disappointed in friends, you certainly can decide what your next move is, and how gracefully you handle the situation when you have been let down.
Implementing the steps laid out above can help you deal with the situation with a positive outlook. Remember, it’s you who controls how to proceed when friends let you down, and how to navigate the relationship from this point onward. Good luck! •
Main image: shutterstock/Prostock-studio
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Fitness and healthy food blogger, food photographer and stylist, travel-addict and future self journaler. Sonia loves to write and has resolved to dedicate her life to revealing how easy and important it is to be happier, stronger and fitter each day. Follow her daily pursuits at FitFoodieDiary or on Instagram.
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