If a friend belittles you, tell them immediately. Let them know that you don’t like the way they treat you, because they may not realize it.
To deal with a friend who belittles you, may also decide to detach yourself, take a break, and ask yourself whether they are actually friends.
After all, why would a friend belittle you? Why would they ever choose to make you smaller, to ridicule you, or to make you seem less than what you are?
Personally, I think that in most cases a friend who belittles you isn’t really a friend (which may be hard to accept at first).
However, it’s definitely possible that your friend is not aware of what they’re doing to you; they may not realize how their words hurt your feelings.
Why friends may belittle you
The very first thing to keep in mind is that people who belittle you (whether it’s friends, coworkers, or even strangers) do so purely because of who they are.
Never assume their behavior is about you; it’s about them, their inability to deal with a certain issue, their passive-aggressive attitude, you name it.
Now, a friend may choose to belittle you rather than someone else because of some of your personality traits, or your weakness, for example not standing up for yourself.
So in a way, their behavior may reveal something about you (and we’ll get into that in a minute). But don’t assume you are the cause of their behavior.
If there is something that needs to be addressed, or fixed, then there are a million ways to communicate that, and belittling isn’t one of them.
Whether it’s a real friend or a fake friend belittling you, know that such behavior can only be a sign of immaturity. No person who is mature and responsible would ever belittle others.
Now, let’s have a look at the potential reasons a friend may belittle you. In no particular order:
- Jealousy. Some people really struggle with jealousy. They make the mistake of comparing their life to that of other people, and that triggers an overwhelming sense of inferiority. One (toxic) way they deal with that is by belittling those around them. They think that by making them smaller, they can cope with the negative feelings they themselves created.
- Insecurity. If a friend belittles you, it may be because deep inside they are insecure. Their sense of self-worth may not be where it should be. Then, the act of belittling others may be a defense mechanism — attacking others before they get attacked. Which is nuts. But in your friend’s mind, this might make perfect sense.
- Resentment. Let’s say your behavior (anything you’ve said or done) has hurt your friend, and they find it hard to express their feelings in a constructive way. What they may do instead is “punish you” by belittling you, in private or in front of others. Which clearly doesn’t address the root cause of their resentment.
- Bullying. Not actual bullying, of course (provided we’re talking about a true friend). But sometimes a friend may confuse confidence with arrogance; they may try to assert themselves and end up bullying others as a result. I’ve seen this quite a few times, particularly in younger people.
How to deal with friends who belittle you
1. Tell them how you feel
This is number one for a reason. If a friend belittles you, the first thing you want to do is share your feelings, tell them that their behavior is inappropriate and/or hurts you.
Don’t get angry; don’t shout. Remain calm, but confident. Also, don’t wait forever. Just tell them. You want to address the issue before it’s too late.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting: their reaction will show you their true nature, who they really are, and whether they actually consider you a friend or not.
When you do tell them, pay attention to their response. Do they react impulsively? Do they apologize? Are they surprised? Are they sorry? Do they just ignore you?
2. Send them a text message
Talking face-to-face would always be better, but I get it — sometimes you may feel intimidated, you may think that you’ll lose control if you confront them directly.
Or you may not have the opportunity to do so (for example, your friend may be away for a while, and you don’t want to wait for too long).
So the second way to deal with a friend who belittles you is to, still, tell them why their behavior is inappropriate, and how it makes you feel worse, but with a text message.
Your friend may decide to reply with an equally “serious” text message, or say that they’ll talk to you in person. But again, pay attention to how they respond because that’s going to tell you whether they are a friend or not.
3. Protect your energy
Third way to deal with a friend (or anyone) who belittles you: detach yourself. Protect your energy. Don’t let their behavior affect you. Don’t absorb their negativity.
This could mean taking a break, if needed. You may need to evaluate your relationship with them; you may want to stop seeing them for a while.
Or, you may realize that the person you used to call a friend is no longer a friend. Perhaps you were never friends in the first place. Which isn’t the most pleasant feeling. But you must be honest with yourself.
Whatever the case may be, know that their behavior always reflects who they are (as explained earlier) and don’t let any of their words define you.
4. Raise your standards
Serious question: why would you ever be willing to put up with someone who belittles you? Especially if they do it repeatedly, and in public?
Could it be that you are a bit needy, that you find it hard to let them go because you’re too afraid of being lonely? Why are you even spending time reading this post?
Why not raise your standards instead, and decide that, from today forward, you will not put up with people who don’t have the maturity to deal with others the way they should?
If a friend belittles you, there is nothing wrong with talking to them, and still be friends with them. However, you may decide that you’ve had enough, that you deserve better, and move on and be more selective.
5. Evaluate your own behavior
This isn’t really a way to deal with the issue — it’s more of a tip to reflect on what’s happening and how to see it as a lesson, as an opportunity to find out more about yourself and your personality.
Ask: why does this friend belittle me? Should I be more assertive, more confident when dealing with others? Do my behavior, my posture, my way of talking communicate weakness?
If someone belittles me, does it indicate that I should be a bit more guarded, that I should not open up too much unless it’s with someone I fully trust? Do I tend to attract controlling people?
Belittlement is never acceptable, but it may be a lesson. Understand why your friend belittles you, why so far you’ve put up with it. When you do, you’ll get to the root cause and it’ll be easier to deal with it.
Friends who belittle you may be fake friends
I hate to break it to you, but not all friends are… friends. Sure, nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes; it could be that a friend who belittles you is simply immature.
But in most cases, a friend who belittles you is a fake friend. That’s in most cases. Which means that usually the best course of action is to detach yourself from that person you called friend.
Or, see him or her as a friend, but not as a close friend; more like an acquaintance, someone you meet from time to time without actually developing a close friendship.
Always be honest with yourself and let your intuition guide you. What does your gut feeling say? Is your friend really a friend? Pay attention to that, and never be afraid to do what’s right.
It can be hard to say goodbye; and it can be hard to find new (real) friends. But sometimes you have to put yourself first and refuse to be around people who don’t value you the way they should.