It’s one of the worst feelings in the world when you find out someone talked about you behind your back. Your face gets hot. A pit in your stomach forms. Your heart races. The world grows still. Your day is ruined. And the only thought in your head that keeps circling on repeat is:“What did they say exactly? Give me every single godforsaken detail, please.”
But you know that’s not helpful. It doesn’t matter the exact words they used – all that matters if you feel betrayed. Your feelings are hurt. And you’re left wondering if the friendship was ever really meaningful from the start. So, after the dust settles and you’ve processed it all – now what? What on earth do you to with this information? Do you confront them? Ghost them? Act like nothing ever happened? Throw the messenger under the bus?
Here’s a step by step process on what to do when you find out someone talked behind your back.
Consider the Source
Before you jump to the worst possible conclusion: first ask yourself, do you trust the person delivering this information?
If the answer is a resounding “No” – then let this go immediately. Untrustworthy people spreading gossip do not deserve your time, attention, or energy. Unfortunately there are too many people shuffling around waiting for the perfect time to brew up some drama for their own entertainment. They could have twisted somebody’s words, filled in the gaps themselves, or frankly – they could have made it all up. Give the situation the benefit of the doubt and try to put it out of your mind. If you hear the exact same feedback again in the future, then you can revisit the next steps. But for now, you’re in the clear.
If you are gathering information from a trustworthy source, then ask yourself another question: “Why are they telling me this?”
It’s pretty standard for a conversation like this to be a buzz kill. Obviously you’re going to be a little miffed. So why is this person telling you information that’s just going to cause anxiety, stress, disappointment, or anger?
Perhaps they aren’t the sweet friend you thought they were, and they actually crave drama more than you realize. Or…maybe they have your back no matter what and thought you had a right to know when someone is going around town bad-mouthing you. Whatever the reason is – don’t be afraid to ask. It’s important for you to understand why someone would feel to the need to rain on your parade with this information, and it could help you understand the severity of the situation. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to set boundaries with friends to prevent this from happening again! Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.
Evaluate the Friendship in Question
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in this situation multiple times. While I try to be a good person (most days), some people still don’t like me regardless. Sometimes I deserve it; and sometimes I truly don’t. So I’ve had different reactions over the years to learning that people are talking behind my back. This is typically how I go about it:
When I worked in an office back in the day, I found out that a co-worker said some not-super-nice things about me. While I hated to hear it, it was so good for me to know. I really needed to understand who was on my side at work, and who I really couldn’t count on to support me. My quick calculations led me to see that confronting the smack-talker wasn’t in my best interests. I couldn’t do anything to avoid interacting with this person – we worked closely together. Confronting her would probably make things really uncomfortable and awkward – and I didn’t really want to be this person’s friend outside of work. So instead, I kept it to myself, and was more careful about what I shared with her. I protected myself.
Point is, if you don’t want a continued friendship – there may not be a real reason to bring it up. Consider this value information that will help you alter your behavior around them in the future.
If you thought you could get through this article without having a face to face conversation…sorry to burst your bubbles, lovebug. I know it’s difficult to think about – but these conversations are what make or break friendships every day. Let’s put yours to the test.
If you’ve evaluated the friendship and decided that this relationship is WORTH figuring out what happened – that’s wonderful. It’s time for a tough talk.
But, before you fly off the handle, make sure to ease into this confrontation with deep breaths. Popping off at someone usually only results on a lot of unnecessary defensiveness – and that’s a really poor way to have a productive discussion. So instead, operate with the benefit of the doubt. The goal here isn’t to accuse anyone – the goal is to clear the air and gather more information. It is completely possible that whatever was said was taken out of context, misheard, or misrepresented, and you really don’t want to create A D D I T I O N A L tension in an already uncomfy situation.
So, just breathe. Sincerely ask them if they remember that conversation, and if they’d like to discuss anything with you in person. If they come clean, then get to the root of it. You’ve managed to get some truth out, so play with it. Don’t scare it away. And, if they deny the whole thing – it may be in your best interest to believe them. Rumors are fun to spread, but rarely are they ever confirmed at every pass. If this is a one-time occurence, chalk it up to groundless gossip and move on.
All right – so worst case scenario was true: your friend that you trusted talked poorly about you to someone else.
If you really like/love this person and believe in your heart of hearts that they’re a good person who just messed up – then let’s figure out a way to stop this in the future. It’s important to discuss why they decided to vent someone else instead of you. Are you difficult to talk with? Do you tend to get defensive in the face of criticism? Or, is your friend too scared to confront people in general? Talk about what you two can do to eliminate third parties from entering into your relationship.
It’s also crucial to discuss the elephant in the room: trust. Your friend violated your trust – and it’s going to be difficult to give it back immediately. So talk about why your friend deserves your trust, and how you can make strides to forgive them. This doesn’t need to happen overnight – clearly there was a breakdown in communication and issues need to be resolved – but the more you two talk openly and honestly about the next steps, the more confident you’ll feel.
Ending a Friendship
If you’ve decided that this friendship isn’t worth it to you anymore, don’t second-guess yourself. More than likely, if you’ve just caught your friend talking poorly behind your back, this wasn’t the first time. And I guarantee there are other cracks in the friendship you’ve been covering in denial.
Face the friendship. Call it what it is: spoiled. Maybe back in the day you two were thick as thieves, but if this person doesn’t have the decency OR the willpower to openly communicate about improving your friendship together – then what’s the point? You simply have too much going on at the moment to spend another second wondering if a friend is violating your trust. Not worth it.
But don’t ghost a person without explaining yourself. You have a concrete reason for backing away, and this person should know that. Maybe you can help them better themselves on their own personal journey. The more they learn, the better off everyone is.
Whether you’re moving on from the incident or from the person – please, please, please put this behind you. Do not punish the friendship for one mistake that you guys already hashed out, and don’t remain paranoid thinking every friend is trashing you behind your back because of one bad egg.
Instead, the only thing I’d like for you to focus on in regards to this unfortunate event, is how to create and sustain healthy friendships. If you remained friends, ask yourself how you can do a better job communicating with them and others in your life. Work on your defensiveness. Remind yourself that no one is perfect, but that you are able to handle whatever critique comes your way.
If you ended your friendship, ask yourself, how did I become friends with this person in the first place? Do I attract people like that, and if so, are there other foxes in the henhouse? Evaluate your standards and your boundaries. Consider if you need to make major adjustments to keep assholes out of your life. Find better friends. And if you need some help in this department – that’s Blush Online Life Coaching’s specialty. Work with a coach today to assess your values and find people that match your needs. You’ll be so much happier in the long run!