It’s happened to all of us. Your bestie, your comrade, your sister-in-arms is making a terrible mistake. She’s putting her trust in the wrong person. She’s making the wrong decision for herself. She’s loving the wrong man, a man who clearly doesn’t care for her the way she needs and deserves.
When you care for someone so much that you’d do nearly anything for them, these ‘mistake’ moments can seem life or death. You feel like, “oh my God, I have to tell them right now. I have to make them understand!” And then you tell them, you explain your position with all the passion you feel in your heart. You show them you’re desperate for them to make the right choice, not to shortchange themselves when they have so much to offer.
And then, and then, it becomes an argument and before you know it that friendship you had lies in tatters and you have no idea why.
Years ago, I lost one of the best friends in my entire life this way. She was a senior when I was a freshman and she’d decided to drop out at the end of her second semester to run off with a guy, much older, who was obviously the player type, the type of guy who hangs out at college bars just waiting for someone to finally be receptive to his advances. I told her. I begged her to stay and even fought with her but she didn’t listen. Just as bad, I was screechy and awful. I broke that friendship. She left and I didn’t hear from her again.
It hurt me so much that I never confronted anyone I loved that way again. It’s true, you do have to tell them and show them how much you love them but there’s a right way and a wrong way.
If I had the chance to do it all over again this is how I’d do it.
1. Get Yourself Squared Away First
Make sure you really know what’s going on. When we’re worried we can make things larger than they really are. I think that’s actually been the definition of worry in my life sometimes, freaking out. Don’t freak out. Make sure you understand their point of view. Make sure you’re not just worried because it’s not your idea of what their life should be.
Everyone has their own path and we should only stop one another when there’s a real and true reason.
2. Don’t Be Cruel
Okay so now you’re sure that they’re making a mistake and you’re ready to say something out of love. Never blame, ever. Yes, it’s true, we’re often our own worst enemies and that’s on us but blaming your friend for doing things that are going to ruin her life can take you from besties to enemies quickly. Everyone hears advice differently and understand that they may be just as passionate about the thing you think is hurting them as you are.
Say your piece, be kind, and never be cruel.
3. Don’t Hold It Against Them
So, they didn’t listen to you. Are you surprised? I’ve ignored good advice lots of times in my life because I didn’t see what people saw. Luckily, the people who gave me the advice I didn’t take weren’t the kind to hold it against me.
You’ve said your piece and that’s all you can do. Go on loving your friend, even help them take the next steps that their heart is set on if that’s appropriate. Love them and don’t bring it up again unless they initiate it.
4. Don’t Ever Say “I Told You So”
So, it didn’t work out for them. Their heart is broken or they’ve got a serious setback in their life now. This is an incredibly vulnerable time for them as it would be for you.
Never, ever bring up that you told them it wouldn’t work out. Don’t even bring up that you were ever even worried. The truth of their lives stings like a thousand wasps right now and you shouldn’t add to it. They’re counting on you to be there for them so be their rock if they need it. Remember how many times you’ve needed it.
5. Admit You Were Wrong
So, it DID work out for them. It was a good decision after all. They’re happier than they’ve ever been and you completely misjudged the situation. We’ve all done it. Now is the time to make sure they know that you know you were wrong. Now’s the time for you tell them how proud you are of them for following their heart or taking a risk.
Let them know that they’re amazing and they made the right decision. This way they’ll know that you really did have their best interests at heart and that their happiness is what you care about.
6. If You Were Right, Be There For Them
Again, be their rock because this is what being true friends is about, accompanying one another through the ups and downs of life, the mistakes, the heartaches and heartbreaks, the successes and failures. This is what friendship is about. Hold them up, carry them, let them lean on you. Be the kind of friend that your friendship needs. They can’t survive otherwise.