Hi Rene:

I am 50-years-old and can’t seem to gain the respect of “friends”.

When I was a child, my friends would always choose other friends over me. When I was married,  my ex would usually side with others (even strangers) against me and proved not to be my friend. Now, my sister and her daughter, who I’ve been extremely nice to, have done some very horrible things to me. Needless to say, I’ve decided not to have any further contact with them.

Recently, I went to a neighborhood meeting and the leader called on everyone who had their hand up except me, and I was sitting right in front of her. I’m not a victim. I just want to know how to stop being in relationships where I’m disrespected.


Sick of being walked on

Dear Sick:

Oh man, if I could hug you through this computer I would! Your letter makes me sad, in part because it doesn’t have to be this way. I’m going to give you my layperson’s take on what I think might be going on here, but the real work is going to have to be done by you and that won’t be easy.

At first glance, it sounds to me like your “friend picker” needs a tune-up. How do you fix that? By taking a hard look at yourself. When you meet people, are you quick to friend them? Do you telegraph “needy”? Do you give them everything they want? Do you agree with everything they say? How are you with confrontation? Do you avoid it at all cost for fear of losing the friend/husband? Maybe, in an effort to make relationships work, you’re too agreeable. It could be you are attracted to strong-willed people and when you give in to them, it sets up a pattern for them to treat you poorly. In the case of your sister and her daughter, you said, you had been “extremely nice” to them. As my husband always says, “People take kindness for weakness” and I think there is such a thing as being too nice. Okay,  that’s my rough assessment, now here’s what I think you need to do.

WORK ON YOUR SELF-ESTEEM: I’m not exactly sure how someone would go about doing this on his or her own; you might actually need some professional counseling to get at the root of it. If you have a job with heath insurance, find out if there is a mental health component,  then use it. If you don’t have that, see if you can talk to your minister or someone else who might do some type of counseling. But you need to understand and believe that what you have to say is important, even if it goes against what others are saying.

LEARN HOW TO SAY NO: Or yes, or speak up for yourself or express how you truly feel, not what you feel other people want you to say. This will get easier as you work on your self-esteem. But, at the risk of repeating myself, you matter. Period. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In fact, you should make that your personal mantra. And if your friends can’t take you having a difference of opinion, it’s clear they don’t want friends as much as subordinates.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE ALONE: I’m wondering if this is part of the issue. If you don’t want people to leave you, you will do anything, ANYTHING to hang on to them, including letting them treat you like dirt.  Stop that now. If you speak up and they leave you, they weren’t worth having around in the first place. Be comfortable being alone with your fabulous self. Get a good book. Or a loyal dog. Or a goldfish.  But do what you have to in order to be okay in the event these people, with their conditional friendships, hit the road.

I would have handled the neighborhood meeting this way; I would have raised my hand, and politely yet emphatically said, “EXCUSE ME! (Raising and waiving hand now), I have something to say.” If the leader said they were out of time, I would have said, “This will only take a minute” then launched into what I had to say. You know why, because, like you, what I have to say, matters. Believe that.

One more point before I go, if you have trouble speaking up, look into a Toastmaster’s  group in your area and see if attending meetings will help make you more comfortable speaking up in group situations.

Good luck to you; I have faith you can do this!

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