6 things you should do when your friend is mad at you (the sooner the better)

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We’ve all been in a situation where someone we care about is behaving differently toward us.

Sometimes it’s as a direct result of a situation we’ve been in (like an argument), and other times we honestly have no idea what could have caused it.

When we don’t know why a friend is ignoring us, or being short with us when we talk, it’s difficult to know where to begin to make amends.

Whether you’re trying to get them back into your life, get them to forgive you for something you’ve done, or just talk to you about what might be troubling them, here are some solid steps you can take.

1. Make sure they’re mad at you.

Before trying to figure out how to make things right with a person, it’s a good idea to figure out whether they are, in fact, upset with you.

There are a million reasons why someone might be keeping their distance, that have absolutely nothing to do with you personally.

Think about how many times someone has asked you what was “wrong” when you were just lost in thought, or asked why you were being weird toward them when you just needed time to work through something personal.

Many people retreat into solitude when they go through difficult circumstances, and don’t realize how their actions may affect others around them.

Their friends and family members might feel ignored, neglected, iced out, etc., but none of that is intentional.

These people just close off and get lost in their own thoughts and emotions until they have clarity on the subject.

As a result, if you find yourself swirling down a rabbit hole of trying to understand what you may have done to upset your friend, ask them what’s going on. 

2. Try to have an open dialogue.

This could happen in person, by phone, or even by email if both of you are more comfortable with writing than speaking.

What’s important is discussing things as clearly and openly as possible, so you can both understand the bigger picture.

Remember that a situation always has three sides: each person’s version, and then what really happened.

This is because people usually filter situations through their own experiences before they can even think about seeing the bigger picture.

We also have a wide assortment of sensitivities and triggers that others might not even be aware of.

As a result, a comment that may be intended one way by the speaker is sometimes interpreted completely differently by the one who hears it.

This can then be blown out of proportion, and lead to seriously hurt feelings.

Communication is so important in all types of relationships, but gets complicated since we can’t just tap into one another’s thoughts and emotions.

We have to rely on vocalized clicks and buzzes to try to get our messages across, and what we mean isn’t necessarily what the other person hears.

If you’re dealing with this kind of situation, try to be as clear as possible about your side of things.

Once they’ve told you why they’re upset, you have the opportunity to explain where you were coming from, and why you spoke or behaved the way you did.

In turn, it gives them the same space to explain how they interpreted your words/actions, and how they felt about the entire scenario.

With any luck, you can clear the air completely, and avoid having similar issues in the future.

3. How to deal with them ignoring you.

Oof. Okay, this is a different beast to deal with.

It’s obviously a lot easier to clear the air with someone who’s actually communicating with you.

Making things up with someone who’s ignoring you is significantly harder.

Have you made several attempts to get hold of them across different channels, and they’re just refusing to talk to you?

We’re talking about things like leaving your online messages on “read,” but not replying, plus not returning calls, emails, written letters, etc.

If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to reach out to others in your shared social circle.

Talk to mutual friends and family members, and let them know that you’re trying to reach this person but aren’t having any luck. You’ll likely receive one of a few of the following responses:

– They’ll let you know if/when said friend is going through a rough time and just needs some space to work through it, at which point you can just reach out to them and let them know that you’re here when they’re ready to talk.

– They might give you some insight as to why your friend is ignoring you, like telling you that you upset him/her, and offer some suggestions as to how you can make amends.

– You could find yourself ghosted by all of your mutual friends, suggesting that you did something really awful and you’ll need to make serious amends if you want to get this person back into your life.

– They might yell at you or be really cold toward you, and let you know in no uncertain terms that your behavior was reprehensible.

However they respond (and silence is a response all its own), you’ll be able to glean a bit more insight as to why the person you care about isn’t giving you the time of day.

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4. Own up to being a jerkface.

We mess up sometimes.

In fact, we can mess up hugely at times, hurting other people significantly in the process.

This behavior is usually unintentional, and often arises when we’re too mired in our own stuff to really be aware of our actions, or if we’re thoroughly inebriated and behaving like idiots. 

If it’s the latter, you might not even remember what it was you said or did. We’re not exactly ourselves when under the influence of various intoxicants, but that doesn’t excuse awful behavior. It explains it, but doesn’t excuse it.

Should you remember what it was you did, own the behavior – even if you feel embarrassed by it.

You might be tempted to say that you don’t remember behaving that way because you’re ashamed, but if you really want to make amends with this person, you have to eat your humble pie and take responsibility for your actions.

If you honestly don’t remember what happened, ask them what it was you said or did. It may be difficult to hear, but it’s also important.

5. Acknowledge how your words or actions affected them.

It can be difficult to accept that we’ve hurt someone else, especially if what hurt them isn’t something that would upset us.

Some people even turn to gaslighting in order to alleviate their own guilt about their crappy actions.

The initial response might be flippancy: to insist that what you said or did wasn’t that bad, or couldn’t/shouldn’t have upset them because it wouldn’t upset you.

Thing is, it isn’t you who’s upset, here. It’s them.

And their emotional responses need to be acknowledged, respected, and understood, even if we don’t agree with them.

We need to remember that we’re all different, and we can’t expect others to react to things the way that we do. It might be more convenient for us if they did, but it’s unrealistic.

Furthermore, it’s invalidating to another person’s life experience when someone informs them that they should think, feel, or behave a certain way. 

If you really feel like you didn’t do anything wrong, you can respond to them by saying that you don’t understand why they’re hurt, but you do understand that you upset them, and you’re sorry.

This acknowledges and validates their experience without disempowering you.

6. Ask sincerely how you can make amends.

Just like everyone has their own unique sensitive spots, they also have different ways to understand and forgive another for their behavior.

You know how there are five “love languages”? Those also relate to how we understand or forgive other people.

If you’re unfamiliar with those languages, you can learn more about them here

Basically, when it comes to heartfelt emotional expression and communication, people behave in five different ways:

– Words

– Quality time together

– Physical affection

– Acts of service

– Gift-giving

Different people will place higher or lower priority on these five, depending on their personality.

For example, a person who expresses love through gift-giving will consider that a top priority in terms of giving and receiving affection.

As a result, they will respond best to someone giving them a gift, because that’s what they consider most important.

The same goes for someone who values words most: a heartfelt apology (especially a written letter that they can read several times over) would likely mean far more to them than a bouquet or a trinket.

If you know how your friend responds best, then you’ll know how to approach making up with them.

If not, ask those closest to them for advice.

Best of all, ask your friend how you can make amends.

Try not to be passive-aggressive about it, but rather be very heartfelt and honest and ask how you can make things right.

If they care about you as much as you care about them, and they want you in their life, they’ll be willing to meet you part way and let you know how you can work together to mend the rift between you.

Just don’t compromise yourself to suit another person’s wants or expectations.

Now, all of this “making up” stuff gets a bit more complicated if your friend is behaving unreasonably.

If you said or did something that they just didn’t like, and they’re upset with you because you’re not modifying your behavior to suit their personal wants, then they’re the one who needs to do some serious soul searching.

Taking steps to make up with a friend who’s mad at you is a noble endeavor, but grovelling for someone’s attention when they’re being unreasonable is not.

Own up to poor behavior, and do what you can to make amends.

They might acknowledge and appreciate your attempts, or they might ghost you. It all depends on what harm was done, what amends were attempted, and whether they want to accept your apology.

Either way, your combined behavior will dictate your friendship’s future.

About The Author

Catherine Winter is an herbalist, INTJ empath, narcissistic abuse survivor, and PTSD warrior currently based in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. In an informal role as confidant and guide, Catherine has helped countless people work through difficult times in their lives and relationships, including divorce, ageing and death journeys, grief, abuse, and trauma recovery, as they navigate their individual paths towards healing and personal peace.