Hi Rene,

My best friend Carol has been really mean to me recently and I don’t know what to do to get her to like me again.

I’ve been friends with Carol since we were 6 years old (I’m now 14), but over the last few months she’s started hanging out with some new girls at school and not being very nice to me.

When she’s with her new friends she makes fun of the way I dress and the way I speak (I have a stutter) – but if we’re alone together she’s nice to me again.

How can I make Carol my friend again?


Confused, Kansas

Dear Confused:

I’m sorry you are going through this but you are getting an up close and personal lesson in human behavior. Unfortunately it’s not always nice or pretty. The way Carol is acting is truly puzzling and she’s really the only one who can explain it. While you may not be able to change her, you can change the way her actions affect you.

When I was in the 6th grade, one of my friends was Donna, the principal’s daughter. Of course the fact that her dad ran the school made everyone want to be her friend. The problem is Donna was downright mean. When she and I were together she was great to me, but when her other friends were around, it’s like I didn’t exist. Some adults are that way too. But that’s not how real friends treat each other. Real friends are your friends even when other, more popular kids are around. Real friends will defend you when others are talking about you behind your back. Real friends don’t care that you have the newest iPod or the best backpack. Real friends would NEVER make fun of a disability you have. They like you for who you are and that doesn’t change based on who else is around.

There are two ways you can handle this and I want you to pay attention because you will use them again when you’re grown. You can use the direct approach and talk to Carol or you can use the indirect approach and just give her a good case of the “Leave-‘em-alones.”

DIRECT APPROACH: I am a fan of this because it clears the air and you can start from scratch. Start by telling Carol that you don’t appreciate her making fun of you when her other friends are around and tell how it makes you feel. She may apologize or she may argue that she doesn’t do that. Either way, you can then move forward. The direct approach, though better is not always easy to do, especially for young people. It’s hard because you’re going to have to call someone on his or her behavior and sometimes that’s uncomfortable.

INDIRECT APPROACH: In this case you are not going to say anything to Carol instead you’re going to make yourself scarce. You can be polite to her, speak when spoken to but do not go out of your way to be friendly. Don’t call or text her, don’t make plans to see a movie together and make sure you hang with your other friends. Have you heard that saying “You don’t know what you got until it’s gone?” Carol may realize, when you’re not around, how much she misses you and she might decide to act right.

Confused, I’m no expert but I have been in the 6th grade before so here’s what I THINK might happen. Carol may apologize and promise to be a real friend. But old habits die hard and when she gets to school and around her other posse, she may fall right back into that bad behavior. If she does, time to implement the indirect approach phase and stick with it for good. You do not deserve to be the butt of someone else’s jokes, ever! And, for the record, real friends don’t have to be reminded how to act.

Dr. Phil says that we teach people how to treat us. In other words, if you allow Carol to be a fair weather friend and to treat you badly, she has no incentive to change. But if you put your foot down and let her know you won’t stand for it either directly or indirectly, she will change. And if she doesn’t change, you won’t be hanging around to see it.

Good luck honey!

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