Ask Natalie

Communicate Your Feelings to Friend

DEAR NATALIE: I have a friend who feels that I have wronged her in some way. Because of this, she feels that it is perfectly acceptable to do rude things to me or give me the silent treatment, etc., until it dawns on me that I must have angered or hurt her, at which point I ask her what is wrong.

Because I'm not a mind reader, I submit that this type of behavior is counterproductive and can result in more misunderstandings. Instead, I believe that when a person is angered or hurt by a friend or significant other, the responsibility for initiating a discussion really rests on the person who is angered and/or hurt. At that point, I think the person doing the confronting should give me an opportunity to own up to what I've done, apologize and make amends, if possible. What are your suggestions? -- NOT A MIND READER

DEAR NOT A MIND READER: Sounds as if you have a very passive-aggressive friend. It's challenging to be close with people who do not express themselves when they are hurt in the moment and instead take their frustrations out on you later. However, it is not OK to give a friend the silent treatment or be unkind in other ways.

Your friend is in the wrong here, regardless of why she is upset. Instead of dealing with her feelings, she is choosing to make a problem even bigger. But, sometimes people are afraid to own their feelings, therefore, she can't just tell you what upset her. Anger is merely a mask for fear. And when we are afraid, we become irrational.

Perhaps the best thing (and what I have tried to do in my own relationships with friends who are not open with their emotions) is to explain to her that while you are not a mind reader, you never meant to hurt or upset her. You love her, and while all of us are human and make mistakes from time to time, the worst mistake would be in not communicating how we feel. Don't make the conversation about her. If you say, "I feel ." instead of "You make me feel .," you will get a better result because she won't immediately become defensive. This works well with lovers, too. Be specific and state how you feel, and give her the opportunity to respond in kind.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

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