Bugbears: Aaron's advice about friends
CBBC agony uncle Aaron Balick has looked at the problems you sent in about friends. Here is his advice.
Aaron says: Friendships can be more complex than we expect them to be. While we love our friends, and they love us, sometimes there can be misunderstandings, fights and arguments that make friendship difficult.
Friendship isn’t about things being perfect all the time, it’s about being able to talk about and work through your problems together. Sometimes friends just have fallings-out – the trick is to understand that that’s natural, and then see how you can best respond to it (usually be talking it through).
Losing friends and making new ones can be tough. But with a little persistence, a readiness to take risks, and a desire to really get to know people, you’ll find you can make friends in almost any environment.
My friends have started leaving me out. Sometimes I feel like they don’t like me anymore.
Aaron says: It can really hurt to feel left out of things. Sometimes, of course, it’s just an accident, but it sounds like you are beginning to think it’s a regular thing. It’s not nice to be left out and not know what’s going on, so perhaps you should try and find out.
Have you got a closest friend in this group of friends? Maybe a good place to start is with him or her? By reaching out and talking to your closest friend in the group, you can check what’s going on, and then maybe use their support to check things out with the rest of the group. In any case, it’ll help to talk through your options with someone else (like maybe a parent or someone else you trust) just to talk through how you might choose to sort it out.
I only have one friend and they’re ignoring me. What should I do?
Aaron says: I bet you’re feeling pretty lonely if your one friend is ignoring you. That can be really confusing because you probably don’t know why. When you are feeling lonely it can be difficult to know what to do, so really the best thing is to find someone you can talk to about it who can help you work through what to do next.
Have you got someone in mind you think you could do this with? By talking it through first you will gain some confidence. After that, you might want to approach your friend and ask them what’s going on. The most important thing is to talk to someone about it so you don’t have to work it all out on your own.
I'm having trouble making friends. What’s the best way?
Aaron says: Sometimes we can all feel a bit shy about making a start with new friends. I think there are three things that can really help.
First, the best time to make new friends is when you’re all sharing something you have in common, because you have something to talk about. So use it as an opportunity! Second, don’t be afraid to say “hi” – if you wait for people to come to you, you might be waiting a long time. Third, once you’ve said hi you’ve done the hardest thing! If you can’t think of something to say next, just ask lots of questions, people love to talk about themselves. You’ll get the hang of it soon enough.
I am not very good at making real friends because of my musical taste. Can you help?
Aaron says: While it’s great to have friends that share your tastes (especially things that are super-important to you) it can be limiting if your friends have to like the same sort of music as you do. There are lots of reasons why to be friends with other people, so reach out and see if you can be friends for different reasons than music. Once they are your friends, you may find that you can influence their feelings about music. They might actually influence yours too!
Sometimes I feel like my friends laugh at me behind my back because I like things they don't. I heard them talking about me the other day.
Aaron says: Friendship isn’t all about things we have in common. Sure, you have to have enough in common, but it can’t be everything. If that were the case, we’d all be exactly the same. Real friends respect differences; they don’t make fun of them.
It’s also important to remember that sometimes it can feel like others are making fun of us when they are not – especially if you feel it’s happening behind your back. So try not to jump to conclusions. If you feel like something is going wrong, check it out with your friends: face-to-face.
I have two groups of friends who don’t like each other and I find it difficult to know which I should play with.
Aaron says: It’s hard not to get pulled into arguments between our friends, but it’s also important to remember that the problem is between them not between you and either of them. You should feel free to play with both of your friends when you like to. You can also let them know that you continue to like them both even if they don’t like each other. You might share with them that this is a problem for you, and together you can find the best way to stay friends with everybody.
I’m stuck in the middle of an argument between different friends. They’re always fighting with each other. What should I do?
Aaron says: While sometimes a third person can help two fighting friends fix their problems by talking it through with them, other times it just doesn’t work. When people fight, it’s not just about them, but also the other people that get caught in the crossfire like you!
When this happens it can be good to be honest with your friends by telling them that though you don’t want to get involved with their fight, it does matter to you. By letting them know that their fighting is affecting you, the situation my change and be better for all three of you.
There’s someone who I think is trying to steal my best friend from me. What should I do about it?
Aaron says: When our best friends start spending time with somebody else, it can make us feel a bit jealous. That’s totally natural. Just because someone is interested in being with your friend too doesn’t necessarily mean that they are trying to steal your best friend away.
Best friends are “best” because we feel the most comfortable with them. If you feel unhappy with what’s going on, why don’t you talk to your best friend to better understand what’s happening?
I keep having fallouts with one of my friends. We always make up again but I’m really sad every time it happens.
Aaron says: While it’s pretty natural to sometimes have fallouts with your friends, if it seems to be happening all the time, then it means there’s something in your friendship that needs to be talked about.
What are the fallouts about? When do they happen? Why do they happen? It might be a good idea to try and answer these questions with your friend while you’re not having a fallout to help you understand what’s going on. That can help prevent it from happening again. Just make sure you both listen to each other, try your best to understand, and don’t blame!
My friend says mean things to me and criticises me. Should I stay friends with her?
Aaron says: When you think of the word “friend” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Is it “mean things” and “criticise”? I’ll bet it’s not. Friendship is about being kind and respectful to each other, not being mean. If you’re friend isn’t aware they are being mean (it can happen) then perhaps it’s time to tell them and see if they shape up. But if their idea of friendship continues to be about being mean and criticising even after you tell them how you feel, then I think you could do better!
My ex-best friend is saying nasty things about me behind my back, and turning my other friends against me. What should I do?
Aaron says: True friends will not listen to negative gossip about you and turn against you because they heard something nasty about you from someone else. They should always give you a chance to tell your side of the story and take it from there. In the end, your true friends will stick by you. Still, it’s not nice, and if you feel like you can, you might want to speak to your ex-friend about what’s going on. Usually people do stuff like that because they are hurt and/or angry.
If you can find out what’s going on for your ex-best friend, you might find you can resolve the problem, and all that gossiping will stop. If it feels like it’s grown too big for that, speak to someone at your school who might be able to help you out.
I have this 'friend' and she always boasts about everything she does and she always says that she has already done something I have just done. How do I deal with that?
Aaron says: It’s difficult, but I’m afraid it’s just a fact of life that sometimes the people closest to us can drive us nuts with some of the things that they do. We have to take the good with the bad, and if in the end you like this friend despite all the bragging, it might be something you just live with. However, there should be room for discussing things that annoy us in our friendships.
If you feel this stuff is really getting in your way, you might want to talk about it with them carefully. Instead of blaming, say how it feels to you, something like, “When I say something I’ve done and you come up with something better, I feel hurt.” This way your friend will understand the effect it has on you, rather than feeling like you’re being mean. Sometimes, though not always, that can change the behaviour for the better. Just make sure you’re ready to listen too, if there’s something you do that annoys them!
I have two best friends and I feel like those two prefer each other to me.
Aaron says: Here’s an interesting fact. Almost every time you have three people involved in a friendship, someone will feel like a little left out, at least some of the time. That’s because with three best friends, attention and preferences switch over time, sometimes between one pair, then sometimes between another. This is totally natural, though it can make you feel kind of jealous.
Try not to get too concerned about it, I’m sure one of your other friends feels that way some of the time too, you just tend to notice when it’s you. Keep your eyes open and you’ll see that when you’re not noticing, one of your other friends might just be feeling a tiny bit left out. If you notice that, you can make a special effort to include them. When it’s you feeling left out, you can make a special effort to become involved again.
I have a friend who keeps clinging to me. She won't give me a chance to play with my other friends. Can you help?
Aaron says: When friends get clingy it usually means that they are feeling a bit insecure. While it sounds like you’re a bit annoyed because you feel like she’s getting in your way, it does help to understand where she’s coming from.
It’s natural for all of us to have different people to play with because we like what different people have to offer; it doesn’t necessarily mean we like one person better than another. It might help to explain this to your friend. Reassure her that you’re still her friend, but that sometimes you just like to play with others too. If you feel like it, it might be nice to include her sometimes too with your other friends, so she doesn’t feel left out; but you don’t have to do it all the time.
I play with my best friend A LOT and some of our other friends are getting jealous.
Aaron says: The good thing about a best friend is that we like to hang out with them the most. While that’s fine, it is important to be mindful of your other friends too. You don’t have to include them in everything, but you might want to be aware that if they feel too left out too much of the time, they might not hang around forever. So while it’s totally cool to hang out with your best friend lots, stay aware of how your other friends are doing. Check in on them now and then to see how they’re getting on and maybe include them every once in a while with you and your best friend. You’ll still get plenty of time, just the two of you.
I have a friend who is going through a hard time and so I don’t want to interfere but I want to help as she is my best friend.
Aaron says: I think it’s great that you want to be there for your best friend. You are a really good example of a best friend who wants to be helpful to a friend having a tough time. When friends are having a tough time, usually what they want most is to be listened to carefully.
Sometimes they might be a bit scared to say they need some special attention, so a best friend can say something like, “I can tell you’re having a tough time, and if you want to talk about it, I’m here to listen.” They may not talk about it straight away, but if they know they can come, it will help. It’s not interfering to make room for a friend – just let her know you’re there, and she’ll come when she’s ready.
My best mate is in a different class now and is playing with another girl and not as much with me. Does that mean we aren't best friends anymore?
Aaron says: It can be tough when you change classes with your best friend because that means your friendship changes a little too. It doesn’t mean you’re no longer best friends, it just means that you aren’t friends in the same way you used to be. When things like this change it’s likely that your friend (and you) might make other friends from your new class. That’s natural, even if it’s new and a bit weird for you both. If you’re feeling a bit wobbly about it, have a chat with your friend about that and see where you stand. Maybe now that your in separate classes, you just need to make a bit more effort than before to stay best friends.
I have two really good friends. I think of them as best friends but I'm not sure if I'm theirs. I am quite often lonely and I am always wishing for a best friend.
Aaron says: I think it’s really great that you have two really good friends that you think of as “best friends”. Sometimes we can get a bit caught up in needing our friends to have labels, like this one is the “best one” and this is my “second-best.” The important thing is the quality of the friendship, not just the label. When you’re feeling lonely, who do you talk to? One of these friends, right? If they look out for you and you look out for them, it sounds like you’ve got a pretty good situation after all.
I know you’re always wishing for a best friend, and that’s absolutely fine. But I wonder if you’ve already pretty much got what you find yourself wishing for. What do you think?
My friends bully me. They keep hitting me at random times and punching me after school, but I can’t tell my Mum. I don’t know why. Please tell me what to do!
Aaron says: Do you know what? Friends don’t bully each other. If you are being bullied these people are not your friends. Friends are on your side, and you can feel safe with them. It doesn’t sound like you feel safe with these “friends”. Most of the time we need a bit of help if we are being bullied, and all schools should be prepared to help you.
If you don’t feel like you can tell your mum, is there somebody at school that you feel comfortable enough to tell? Telling can be hard, but it also can help things feel better. Once you get it off your chest, someone can help with the bullying, which will free you up to make real friends that won’t give you a hard time.