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How to Set Boundaries with Friends Who Talk Behind Your Back

As women, we all crave close friendships that offer support, encouragement, and laughter. But what happens when our friendships are plagued by gossip and betrayal?

Dealing with friends who talk behind your back is not easy, but it is a necessary skill to cultivate if you want to maintain healthy relationships.

Is it Normal for Friends to Gossip?

two girls gossiping at work

It’s difficult to answer this question. I think the best way to go about it is to ask yourself this one thing:

Have you ever talked about a friend behind her back?

I’m willing to bet the answer is yes. After all, 70% of our daily conversations revolve around talking about other people.

Not all gossip is smothered in resentment or hateful comments. Sometimes we talk about friends to our other friends when we’re concerned—or even proud!

In fact, studies are now saying gossiping can actually be good for you. It’s been said to:

  • “Release significantly greater proportions of the hormone oxytocin in our brains when we gossip.”

  • “Negative gossip inspired self-improvement, while positive gossip made people prouder of themselves.”

However, there’s a huge difference between gossiping about a random co-worker and having a friend talk negatively about you to others. Healthy female friendships are built on trust, honesty, respect, and communication.

And after all, if your friend had a problem with you, wouldn’t they talk to you about it?

Before you go on the defense, let’s analyze whether or not your friend is actually being disrespectful.

6 Signs Your Friends Are Talking Behind Your Back

3 friends talking behind other friends' back

It can be challenging to know if your friends are talking behind your back, especially if they're being secretive about it.

Signs that your friends may be talking behind your back include:

  1. You feel like you're being excluded from group activities or conversations.

  2. You notice that your friends' behavior changes around you, such as they become quieter or avoid eye contact.

  3. There is more than one rumor spreading that you constantly hear from other people (especially mutual friends).

  4. Your friends don't respond to your messages or calls as quickly as they used to.

  5. You notice that your friends are more interested in your life or personal information than usual.

  6. Said friend is constantly making passive-aggressive comments toward you.

Okay, let’s say you’re suspicions are confirmed— now what?

Well, now it’s time to deal with it.

How To Deal with Friends Who Talk Behind Your Back

How To Deal with Friends Who Talk Behind Your Back

Making friends as an adult is hard. This might be why we try so desperately to cling to the friendships we already have.

Even if they're not good for us.

But before you throw away your friendship, let's try to salvage it first. Take these steps (in order) to address the issue if you still want to maintain your friendship.

Step 1: Identify the problem

Again, you need to recognize that not all gossip is harmful. Sometimes friends may vent to each other about their concerns for you because they don’t know how to approach you.

For example, let’s say you’re hearing that your friend is constantly talking about your eating habits and weight.

Her real concern could be that she thinks you have an eating disorder and is afraid to talk to you about it.

If there aren't any rumors floating around and you just observed a change in behavior, try asking your other friends about it. If they act like they don't know what you're talking about, move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Communicate your feelings

Connect with your friend and schedule a time to meet up. Choose a place that is peaceful and familiar.

Now, the hard part: Telling your friend how their behavior has affected you and why it's hurtful.

Put it all out on the table. Let them know what rumors you've heard or what behaviors are bothering you. It's important to remain calm yet assertive during this conversation.

Remember to use "I" statements instead of "you" statements to avoid sounding accusatory.

For example, say, "I feel hurt when I hear that you've been talking about me behind my back," instead of "You're always talking about me behind my back."

Then, ask them to explain their behavior. Try to avoid attacking or blaming them if you want an amicable solution.

Step 3: Remember your self-worth and set boundaries

It's easy to feel hurt and betrayed when you discover that your friends are talking behind your back. However, it's important to remember your self-worth and not let their behavior define you.

If your friend continues to talk behind your back even after you've communicated your feelings, it's time to set boundaries. This can mean spending less time with them or cutting ties altogether.

While it can be painful to let go of a friendship, you should prioritize your mental health and well-being.

Step 4: Don't retaliate

It's tempting to retaliate or talk behind your friends' backs when you discover that they've been doing it to you.

But this approach only escalates the situation and causes more harm.

Instead, focus on your feelings and what you can control. You can't control what others say about you, but you can control how you react to it.

Step 5: Seek support

Dealing with friends who talk behind your back is emotionally draining.

Seeking support from trusted friends or family members who can provide a listening ear are the best people to go to for advice.

You can also seek support from a therapist or counselor who can help you navigate the situation and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Are you ready to make new friends who don’t cause so much drama? Our How To Make Friends as an Adult Course teaches you to attract the kind of friendships you've been dreaming of.

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