Let’s be honest: Kids and teenagers can be mean sometimes. The teen years are especially hard because boys and girls have a lot to deal with at school, with friends, and with parents telling them what to do. Sometimes adults forget just how stressful life can be for a teenager. The sad consequence is that kids often take out their stress and frustration on other kids, and sometimes a click of friends has a way of ganging up on or shutting out a particular person. If you ever feel like your friends turn on you (spread rumors about you, start avoiding you, or stop talking to you), don’t treat it like a catastrophe. I’ll share some simple steps you can follow to regain a sense of control in your life and to appease any anxiety you may feel.
Tell yourself that this is probably just a phase.
Let me share a brief story from my own life that can help. As an adult, I had a recent conflict with a coworker that deeply upset me. For a good month, we didn’t really talk to each other. During those few weeks, it felt like we weren’t friends anymore. A month later, however, the storm had passed and things started to get back to normal. Now that it’s a few months later, we get a long smoothly and we laugh and have fun like nothing ever happened. With kids and teenagers, they have fallouts with their friends, too. If this happens to you, remember that people sometimes need a break from each other for a few weeks. If you hang in there and give everyone time to cool down, things can often go back to normal pretty quickly.
Communicate your feelings directly and in a way that is not attacking.
If you don’t feel like talking in person to the friends who have shut you out or are ganging up on you, the next best thing is to call your friend or friends on the phone. You don’t have to call everyone if it’s a whole click of friends who are ganging up on you, but call the ones to whom you are closest. Say, “I’m really upset about what’s happening and want to talk to you about it, but I want to take a little time to cool down. Hopefully we will both remember that we care about each other after a little time has passed.” Finally, if talking on the phone feels too stressful, send an email. Emails about arguments are better than texts because people don’t react as quickly, emotionally, or impulsively by email as they do with texts. (Texts are often too quick and short to discuss anything besides meeting-up plans or a simple hi.)
Find one trusted friend outside of the group to whom you can vent about your hurt and angry feelings.
Everyone needs one friend with whom they can share their secrets – and, yes, everyone has secrets. When things go wrong in your group of friends, go to another friend outside of the group for support. The best friends for this kind of venting are friends who go to another school or live out of state, or cousins or other family members who are a bit older and have more life experience as a result. No matter what, talk openly about your sadness and anger; do not swallow your feelings or simply hope they go away.
Make sure that these are friends are truly good for you.
Sometimes conflicts with friends reveal that the friendship was never that healthy or happy in the first place. For example, if someone is mean to you more than once, or your friends talk about you behind your back a few times or more, these may not be the kinds of friends you want to keep. Sure, it seems scary at the time to let a friendship go, but sooner or later you can meet new people who are fun to hang out with and who treat you well! What a crazy idea, huh?
Quick reminders: Hard times pass and angry feelings usually dissipate in time. Friendships and romantic relationships always come with some degree of hurt and disappointment. The goal is to keep those feelings to an absolute minimum. When one or more friends keep causing you pain, it is probably time to move on.