How to Respond to a Verbal Assault Without Losing Your Cool

Two Angry Men

“Often those that criticize others reveal what he himself lacks.” ~Shannon L. Adler

 I answer the phone.

And then the yelling starts. The woman on the other end lets fly a barrage of abuse.

She’s angry and upset and she’s taking it out on me. Because I haven’t sent her a text message for two days.

She wants to know why I haven’t responded and what is wrong with me. She wants to know how I can be so mean.

I don’t understand. I thought I was giving her space during a difficult time. I was also dealing with events in my own life.

I’ve known her for five years, during which time she’s shown herself to be a powerful ally, a fierce supporter, and a generous friend.

But her power has a flip side, as she’s also difficult and draining.

Forceful and forthright, she’s an expert in getting people to do her bidding.

This power had caused cracks in our friendship some time ago, and recently those cracks had become chasms.

I knew she had a string of broken friendships that had erupted dramatically when she perceived a slight.

And now it was my turn because I didn’t respond to her SMS.

Normally I hate conflict. I turn to jelly, stutter and stumble over my words, and feel guilty as all hell. I take on more blame than I should—say it’s all my fault. I just want the conflict to stop.

Actually, I want to run and hide until it all blows over.

But there’s no hiding from this call. No running away from this angry torrent of questions and blame.

And somehow I don’t turn to jelly this time. I find I have a strong inner core. A firm resolve that I can call on.

I’m not quite sure how, but I managed that conflict effectively. Even elegantly.

I didn’t necessarily manage it in the way that the other person wanted me to, but I managed it in such a way that I am proud of myself.

I managed to draw on all the conflict resolution skills I read about, but never used.

Here’s what I did.

1. Take their side.

One of the best things you can do to deflate a conflict is to empathize and agree with the other person, particularly if they’re really angry and emotional.

By agreeing with at least some aspect of their argument, they have nothing to fight about.

The goal isn’t just to placate them. You may find that by empathizing you recognize some truth in what they’re saying. When someone is emotional, it’s hard to recognize when they have valid points, but at times they do.

If you simply can’t see eye to eye, you don’t have to agree with their whole argument, just agree with something. You can start by saying, “You have every right to feel that way.”

What I said during that call was “I’m sorry you’re upset.” Because I was genuinely sorry that she was so distressed. Saying this allowed me to empathize with her, but not give away my own power or accept blame for the situation.

2. Pretend it’s Groundhog Day.

Remember Groundhog Day—when Bill Murray had to do the same thing over and over? Well, it’s often good to pretend it’s Groundhog Day when someone is angry.

You see, when someone is really emotional and upset or angry it’s a little like they’re drunk. Adrenaline is coursing through their body. This sets off a series of events that triggers the release of hormones.

In fact, some people use the term “adrenaline drunk” because when we’re in this state our ability to behave appropriately, listen to reason, and even control ourselves is vastly diminished.

That old expression “I’m so angry I can’t see straight” is fairly accurate.

So repeating your message is necessary. I kept repeating, “I’m sorry you’re upset, but I haven’t done anything wrong.”

3. Channel Eeyore.

If you keep your voice calm and soothing, it has a relaxing effect on both of you.

Try channeling Eeyore. He’s the pessimistic grey donkey in Winnie the Pooh. Although he’s often a little gloomy, he’s completely unflappable.

Nothing gets Eeyore riled or cranky. And he’s also empathetic, so channeling Eeyore can be really helpful when you’re caught in the crossfire of someone’s fury.

During this call I managed to distance myself and remain calm. I didn’t raise my voice or get emotional. Everything I said was spoken in low tones, and I forced myself to speak slowly.

It wasn’t easy, but I held it together until the end of the call. Using a soothing voice calmed me as much as it calmed her.

4. Establish ownership.

Get clear on who owns the problems or issues that come up. I know this is easier said than done, but doing this helps to separate the person from the problems.

It also allows you to work on solutions, and to be clear on your own attachment to both the problem and the solution.

If you can do this, you retain your personal power. This technique allows you to stay in control, and ensure that you don’t become involved in an emotional slanging match.

During this call I listened to what the real problems were. It turned out that my friend had a lot of unwritten rules for our relationship.

These were rules I didn’t know or understand, and rules she felt I’d disobeyed. She was upset that I’d violated these unspoken rules.

I also realized that I wasn’t interested in keeping a friendship that was so complex and difficult. For me, the cost of this relationship suddenly looked far too high.

5. Look after yourself.

Above all else, make sure you take care of yourself.

Sometimes you can’t reach a win-win solution, or even a win-lose solution. In my case, I had to agree to disagree because the underlying issues weren’t resolvable.

One of the ways I looked after myself was to know that I’d done everything in my control to resolve the situation in a reasonable way. I tried my hardest but we couldn’t make it work.

I was sad the friendship was over. But I was comfortable that I had stayed true to myself.

I also knew that I had taken part in the conversation as an equal party. I had made a conscious decision not to apologize or ask forgiveness.

I could easily have given in, accepted all the blame, and done whatever it took to patch things up. I could have let all her yelling and anger bully me into apologizing.

But I put myself first, and that made a huge difference. Normally I focus on the hurt that the other person is feeling. This time I focused on myself.

Respect is Everything

Here’s the key takeaway I have for you: Respect is everything.

Conflict is part of life, whether we like it or not. And the real key to any conflict is respect.

It’s important to show respect for the other person’s thoughts and feelings, and you can do that by agreeing with some part of their argument.

But you don’t have to agree with everything. And you don’t have to give in or turn to jelly.

Because showing respect for other people’s thoughts and feelings is only half the story. Your feelings and thoughts are just as important as anyone else’s.

You deserve to be heard and understood too.

Your opinions and beliefs are valuable.

Your message is just as valid as anyone else’s.

You don’t have to shout from the rooftops. You just need to look after yourself.

So the next time you find yourself involved in a conflict, keep yourself calm by speaking calmly.

Breathe deeply and find your inner core.

It’s there, just waiting for you.

Two angry men image via Shutterstock

Editor’s Note: This post has been expanded for clarification, and the title has been changed to better reflect the story and messages shared.

About Cate Scolnik

Cate Scolnik is on a mission to help parents stop yelling and create families that listen to each other. She does this while imperfectly parenting two boisterous girls of her own, and occasionally hanging out on Facebook. Download her free Cheat Sheet to Get Your Kids from “No” to “Yes” in Three Simple Steps and reduce your yelling today.

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  • Sarah

    Wow! This is either an incredibly poorly-written article, or it is incredibly bad advice.

    The writer begins by describing someone as generous and supportive, who was going through a bad time (no details). The writer didn’t respond to some unspecified text message: We aren’t told what the message was; it could have been a plea for help. And there is no suggestion in the article that there was existing tension or problems in the friendship. By seeming to gloss over the friend’s situation & her message, it reads as though the writer is attempting to minimise her former friend’s feelings. In an article where she purports to dish out advice on how to listen and respond positively to someone who is feeling angry at you…

    The writer defends her failure to respond to her friend by saying she thought she was giving her friend space. However, this is only admirable if the person has asked for or needs space. It seems obvious this friend needed support. The ‘giving someone space’ defence comes across sounding like an attempt at self-justification for being a poor friend, or an excuse for ignoring something/someone you didn’t want to deal with.

    Sure, being yelled at is not nice or appropriate, but when the immediate response is to conclude that ‘suddenly’ the friendship isn’t worth it… Frankly, I would agree, but from the friend’s perspective, not the writer’s! A true friendship is hard work. And there are often ‘rules’, frequently unwritten. You know, one’s like having someone’s back, not dissing them behind their back, being there for them when they really need it… I’ve never once spelled those rules out to a friend, but I sure as heck expect those unspoken rules to be kept! And if I ever found myself with a ‘friend’ who didn’t realise there were rules? Well, that person would probably turn out to be quite self-absorbed and lacking awareness or true empathy, and not really good friend material.

    It is of course important to protect and respect yourself, but it is also important to be generous and forgiving and, sometimes, that does mean bearing the brunt of something unpleasant: Friendship isn’t all roses & someone being your powerful ally. That doesn’t defend the friend yelling or accusing, but if I had someone who had otherwise been supportive, an ally, generous, who I’d been friends with for five years, and who was going through something and obviously needed help, I wouldn’t dump her straight away when she did something wrong. One strike and you’re out? Really?

    And to then try and monetise the experience by writing a mediocre article full of ill-conceived advice – pretend to agree, repeat yourself ad nauseum, distance yourself and don’t really engage with what is being said, look out for yourself – seems very misguided. Sure this selfish advice will save you having to deal with an argument with a friend (précis: “my friend yelled at me, I decided the friendship wasn’t worth it, I dumped her”), but it will teach you nothing about how to help friends going through problems, how to resolve conflict, how to be truly empathetic, or how to deal with someone who is taking their problems out on you by yelling. ( Which are really useful skills that the writer evidently has no time for, as she’s so busy ‘respecting’ herself and her power.)

    And no, I don’t know the writer and I’m not the ex-friend who yelled at her! I’m just a fan of this site and the usually much more thoughtful, positive, and much less selfish thoughts shared on it. I really hope no one takes this advice seriously!

  • Tatiana

    Agreed Sarah. I was a little confused about this article. I don’t know how angry the friend who called was… But I believe that if she called asking about a return to the messages, it’s because she needs her friend and wants to know what is going on! I was in this place myself, of telling people how upset I am, and it is impressive how often People react like that: shutting off the door to the friendship. But in my understanding, friendship is a place of trusting, of doing wrong and fixing, adjusting things. You should be able to have an open and honest conversation with someone you consider a friend, in order to improve the relationship. Maybe the author could write another article, looking through the caller perspective, and realize how alone the person calling would fell – she is dealing with personal problems and, at the same time, lost a friend…

  • Eezmoe

    I can see how you may think that, but I disagree, the essence is correct. As soon as someone gets mad or upset, they stop listening. This is true. The article discusses this; being vague about the details allows the reader to transport themselves to a similar situation of conflict in their own lives, giving the article more power to the person reading.
    The entire time I was reading, I was imagining a situation of conflict I had recently and how these ideas are perfect for keeping calm yourself, calming others and keeping the listening/communication open with respect on both sides. Becoming upset about something simply means things are not going the way you expect.
    Great article!

    Breathe deeply and find your inner core.

  • Karen Nelson

    This is perhaps the first time I have ever felt so much disagreement with an article from Tiny Buddha. The writer of the article certainly needs more experience, training, or compassion. Could be all three is needed.
    What kind of friend cuts off a friendship so quickly just because of a missed text? Where was the consideration for the upset friend? I only saw the writer trying to back out of the situation without even the courtesy of listening….really listening to your friend?
    It sounds like the angry friend had, for 5 years, been a great friend. Strike 1…you are out???? I just don’t think this friendship really meant much to the writer. As this quiet natures they will understand the true blessing ofc a great friend and not destroy a friendship so very easily. Not even looking back but quickly deciding she no longer needed this friend.
    Friends are so very precious. Fight for your friendships. Go the distance. Realize friendships are not convenient but we grow by giving ourselves to others during their needs even…or especially if…we also are suffering.
    Grateful not to have a friend like the writer. My friends are truly awesome.

  • Hi Sarah,

    You make many points that are absolutely true. The thing is that it’s impossible to outline the the roller coaster that occurred during the years that I was friends with this women. There was a time that we were very, very close. There were plenty of times where we helped each other through difficult patches. But we had been going through a difficult patch for a long time.

    I had been trying to maintain the friendship for well over a year, during which time I received several “you don’t give me what I need” kind of calls.

    Friendship isn’t simple – it’s like any relationship and it certainly takes work. But this last text message wasn’t a cry for help. It was another example of a friendship that required high maintenance.

    I’m sorry if I’ve upset you, or angered you. I was trying to use the scene to demonstrate how to deal with conflict. Sometimes relationships sour and it can take one scene to make a person realise “this isn’t working, and hasn’t been working for a while.” That’s what happened here.

  • Tatiana,

    I’m sorry if I’ve confused you. This scene was the culmination of over a year of trying to keep the relationship going. I realised that it had become a toxic relationship. That is, one where her needs were far, far greater than mine. The phone call that ended the friendship was the even that put the writing on the wall for me. It suddenly became clear that she would keep taking as much as I could give (emotionally), and that I had to decide: her or me.

    I chose self-preservation, instead of self-sacrifice.

    I still don’t believe the event was necessary. We had several mutual friends – we’d had children together, and been a close group for while – and they were shocked and horrified at what occurred. But they also recognised that it wasn’t out of character for this person. They had had this sort of thing happen several times while we’d known her.

    Yes, it’s important to ride the ups and downs of friendship. But at the same time, if one person is constantly surrounded by conflict and drama, sometimes it’s because the person creates that conflict and drama.

    This incident showed me that that was the case. I hope that helps you understand.

  • Eezmoe,

    So glad this resonated with you! That was exactly what I was trying to do.

    Each time I wrote more detail into the drafts of this piece I felt like I was complaining. I couldn’t include the events of a 5 year relationship, I could only take one incident that taught me a lot about conflict, and share it.

    I’m glad it worked for you!

  • Hi Karen,

    I’m sorry it came across that way. The friendship had been struggling for over a year, although we’d been close for some time before that. And I’d been using all my counselling and coaching skills to keep it together, and to help her deal with the problems she was creating in her life. I knew she was going through various stresses. I knew she had drama in her life, and she and I supported each other through a number of issues.

    Unfortunately, her behaviour had become more and more unusual, and she became more toxic to be around. I wasn’t the only one to notice. Unfortunately she’s lost many friends.

    At the time it became clear that she was thriving on the drama. She also admitted that she wasn’t dealing with a number of issues well. But she didn’t help herself. I mean, she got professional help but didn’t look after herself. She just went more and more off the rails.

    I don’t want to include more details of her life – it’s her story, not mine – but she hurt a lot of people. In the years that followed she broke up several families and caused a lot of pain. To herself, and others.

    I’m not sorry I started protecting myself when I did. I am sorry that the story has been misinterpreted.

    I hope that helps you understand.

  • I think the confusing part here is that the conflict wasn’t resolved at all. I’m looking at the title and wondering why this article bothered me as it did others, and I think that’s the main thing. As a writer myself as well as an editor, I think it could do better if it were reworked with a different focus. As it stands, it’s more about protecting oneself and trying to control others rather than resolve a conflict (to me “resolving” means satisfactory results on both sides, not an ended friendship).

    Behind anger is hurt and pain and suffering. And for me, I don’t have a problem wrestling with conflict and someone’s anger or listening to reason when I’m angry myself. Some of the advice here, however, would only make me (and I suspect others) even more pissed off. If I’m upset, I don’t want someone to pretend he or she is agreeing with me (placating). I don’t want someone to pretend it’s this or they’re that.

    I want real compassion. Real empathy. Real understanding. And so do other people. I don’t want someone apologizing with “I’m sorry you’re upset.” That’s not an apology. Nobody is responsible for my emotional reaction except me. I want the other person to own what he or she did that was hurtful and apologize for that and explain what’s going on—or explain what I’m not understanding. That is what an apology is for—to take ownership of our own actions or words and our responsibility in the conflict. And I see two main actions that were “wrong” and should have been apologized for: the assumption (assume: ass=u+me as the saying goes) and the lack of text response.

    To me, I think the best thing to do when someone is angry and we can’t deal with it is to focus on ourselves as you wrote: “You just need to look after yourself.” Right. Instead of focusing so much on the other person, why not say focus only on you (anyone/general you)? Try “I’m not comfortable/I can’t deal with your anger. I know you’re hurting. Can we come back to this and talk about it calmly? Maybe later or tomorrow? I promise I’ll listen if we can do it calmly.” That may or may not work, but it doesn’t have quite the ability to backfire and feed the flames as some of the above suggestions do because it’s honest.

    In the recent comments, I see the additional explanations and some missing information. But the article on its own…well, the first comment sums it up pretty well, seems to me.

    All the best on your journey! And I find myself feeling sorry for your friend; I wish the best for her, as well. And if you haven’t read anything on anger by Thich Nhat Hanh, you might like it.

  • I love what you wrote Cate and I can so identify with this. One of my friends is an alcoholic and when she gets in her rage stage, she blames me and anyone around her for her situation and her misery. I know she needs help but I’m not able to be that person (unfortunately). Does that make me a bad friend? Some might say yes, others would say no. In essence I have to protect myself and my family so I can be the best I can be for them. I have to admit, there have been times I deliberately choose not to engage any further in the friendship as it was so soul destroying. Again, some might say this is selfish but at the end of the day, the person that you try to help needs to be open for help and change otherwise its pointless and you take the risk to get dragged down with them. Thanks for sharing Cate!

  • Quinn Eurich

    Hi Cate,

    I agree with Eezmoe,

    You gave what was necessary for someone to put themselves in your place because they’ve experienced something similar.

    I appreciate you leaving out all the details – this wasn’t about the soap opera drama of a situation for which I’m thankful! It was about what to do in this type of situation. And I have to say that I’ve been in a similar situation and totally agree with your approach.

    There some friendships that can’t be saved. There are situations that can’t resolved to both parties mutual benefit. Regardless of how you try – you can’t manipulate the other person to choose to have an equitable relationship with you.

    People resort to anger and abuse because they don’t know of any other way to get their needs fulfilled. Though you had a personal relationship with this person you didn’t take the abuse she was heaping upon you personally.

    People outgrow relationships. They may be going through a bad time that causes them to behave badly, that doesn’t make them bad people. That doesn’t extinguish all their good qualities.

    Kudos to you for keeping all that in mind!

    Your approach is akin to what they teach in Nonviolent Communication, and you believe as they do that respect for the other person is important.

    Nothing – not matter how hard you try to control the relationship – lasts forever. Some relationships start with an unknown expiration date.

    The inability to accept that change is inevitable and that every thing is impermanent is what causes people suffering. (Seems to be appropriate to bring a little Buddhism into a discussion on Tiny Buddha don’t you think?)

    Congratulations on a well written piece, and thanks for sharing.



  • From my perspective, the problem with this article is lack of context. I believe a simple headline revision and perhaps an extra sentence or two with some background would’ve avoided some of the confusion.

    Perhaps a headline such as: “How to end a toxic friendship without losing your cool (or your dignity)” or “How to stand your ground during a verbal assault (without losing your cool)”. Something like that.

    In other words, I see and feel the mixed message in the piece. And I agree that if I was the “angry friend”, the author’s response would probably exacerbate my anger.

    However, I would also get the message that the author simply isn’t going to play my game this time. I would notice the change in response and tone. And I would “get the hint” that my anger and shouting isn’t working out so well.

    But that’s just me — sans “serious behavioral issues” (At least none that require therapy…yet 😉 )

    I’ve had to end toxic, abusive friendships too. It’s never fun. Especially if that friend has unresolved and self-inflicted mental, behavioral, and/or substance problems.

    Overall, I believe Cate did the best she could to convey the intended message: how to get out of an abusive and toxic situation — without apologizing or turning the other cheek…for thousandth time.

    999 absorbed blows is more than enough “giving”, “apologizing”, and “compassion” to expect from a friend.

    Yes, friendships are precious. Yes, friendships take work. Yes, friendships are about forgiveness and understanding.

    Yet friendships go both ways. Both friends have to give and take here and there. Nobody has to keep score. Sometimes one does more giving than receiving…and that’s ok.

    But if all you give is misery, abuse, drama, and stress…over and over and over…you’re eventually gonna get it all back.

    It’s classic Kharma. The Golden Rule. Reaping what you sow. Whatever you prefer to call it.

    In closing: yes, I agree the article could benefit from more context and relative framing.

    But Cate apologized for the confusion in the comments, and provided as many additional details as she ethically could. And this corrects any “editorial errors” and makes her position more clear.

    If you acknowledge the corrections, but still don’t understand, I suggest you simply ask for more clarity. It works wonders!

    Thank you for sharing this, Cate. Thank you for the additional context. And thank you for showing grace under fire.

  • Hi Blaine,

    Thanks for your comments and support. I appreciate it. 🙂

  • Hi Quinn,

    Thanks for your kind words. I do believe I handled the situation with respect and compassion. I just chose not to accept the blame. She saw the situation as being my fault but I know that I didn’t do anything wrong. I wouldn’t do anything differently if I could have the time over, which I think says it all.

    Thanks again for commenting 🙂

  • Leah,

    You’re probably right that a different heading would have been more appropriate. Having said that, I still believe these strategies are useful for dealing with conflict.

    Usually I turn to jelly and just react, but I’ve found it’s better to stand back, and respond strategically. It helps me, but it doesn’t undermine my message. I am truly sorry for the pain she felt, just as I’m truly sorry for the emotions I’ve stirred up with this post.

    Does that mean I’ve done something wrong, or should be blamed for the response? No. I don’t believe so. As you said, we are each responsible for our own emotional reaction.

    When one person is an angry ball of fury, it helps if the other person can be calm and in control of themselves. I didn’t want to control her, just myself.

    I hope she’s OK, but I don’t feel sorry for her. She’s done some truly awful, calculated and hurtful things to other people since then. Yes, she was probably in pain herself, but I’m glad I’m no longer in her life.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • Hi Caroline,

    Thank you for your kind words. You’re right. There are times when we just have to look after ourselves. Sacrificing yourself, and your family, won’t stop your friend drinking. You can only do so much and it’s important to know where your boundaries are. We may all draw the line in different places, but at the end of the day, we all have that line. We all have limits, and it’s good to know where they are before they’re crossed.

    Thanks again for commenting. 🙂

  • Ilka Emig

    Hi Cate!

    You truly managed to pick a topic a lot of people can relate to – in this way or that way. If someone was very disappointed by a friend once, the post might evoke more emotions toward disappointment here. But I know and understand from your post that this was not your intention. I had difficult friends, who basically sucked the energy out of me, and I find your points absolutely valid. Every counselor and therapist learns to set boundaries for self-protection in the exact way you described. I had to learn it too 🙂

    And I agree with what you wrote: ‘Your feelings and thoughts are just as important as anyone else’s.’

    Thanks for this post and I wish you peace and strength. Best, Ilka

  • Good for you for handling a difficult situation with such grace and firm boundaries!

    We all run into friends or former friends at some point who become angry, controlling, manipulative, or try to make us feel guilty – and it’s really important to protect ourselves.

    I don’t find your post to be negative at all. I’m sure it will help someone out there.

  • Hi Leanne,

    Thanks for your comments and kind words. It can be hard to respond to someone who’s so angry and – you hit the nail on the head – manipulative. I too hope the post helps people. 🙂

  • Hi Ilka,

    Thanks for your support. Self-preservation is a fine art, particularly when it’s done with respect. As the wrap-up says, respect is paramount. And that means self-respect too. I’m glad you learned how to look after yourself! It was always my Achilles heel, but I’m getting there. 🙂

  • LaTrice Dowe

    I agree with your opinion, Sarah. However, everyone has a different way on handling anger. Cate was stunned when her best friend was screaming at her for NOT showing any kind of support, so if I were in her shows, I’d give my best friend a piece of my mind!!!

  • LaTrice Dowe

    This is a really great article, which provides excellent advice on how to handle anger. Despite the objections coming from those who don’t have an understanding on the subject, I really do appreciate you sharing your experience, Cate.

    Last year, I called it quits with my ex-best friend, whom I grew up with since childhood. His stupid girlfriend didn’t have to talk to me crazy on social media, so it wasn’t necessary. There was no need for him to blow up my cell phone around 6:00am, calling me all kinds of names. I would have shown more respect towards my ex-best friend, if he handled the situation differently. He was too busy taking sides. An apology wouldn’t work in this case, since the damage is beyond repair.

    Standing up for yourself is the most invigorating feeling. When someone mistreats you, there’s no need to tolerate their disrespectful behavior.

  • Thanks for your comment, LaTrice. I was certainly stunned! I hope you enjoyed the piece.

  • Hi LaTrice,

    Thanks for your kind words, I’m glad you found the article useful. We’ve changed the title of the article, and included extra context to help reduce reader frustration.

    It sounds like you’ve been through the mill with your ex-best friend! I hope you’re looking after yourself.

  • LaTrice Dowe

    I have to disagree with your opinion, Karen. It sounds to me you’re all right with allowing friends to disrespect you, and it’s NOT something that anyone should tolerate.

    I gave my ex-best friend not one, not two, but THREE CHANCES!! Him calling me out of my name was the last straw!! How did you think that made me feel as a person, when it wasn’t strike one?!

    When your friends are disrespecting you, going the distance isn’t necessary!! It’s unacceptable!!!!!

  • LaTrice Dowe

    I agree with you, Leanne. Some people who made comments on Cate’s post are pretty blowing everything out of proportion.

  • Mark Tong

    Hi Cate – well written article with some good advice – not really sure what there is to complain about:)

  • Johnson

    When I was younger I let things go, now at my age I return 10 times whatever someone dishes out !

  • Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your comments. We re-titled the article (It was 5 Steps To Resolve Any Conflict) and included a couple of lines to let readers know the relationship was quite toxic. So I think it’s a lot better now! Thanks again for commenting. 🙂

  • HI Johnson,

    I don’t think you’re alone there – funny how we change as we get older, isn’t it? In some ways we become more tolerant and understanding, but we’re often fare less likely to put up with things. I think it’s healthy to know where your own personal boundaries are, and to enforce them sooner rather than later. 🙂

  • Susan

    I agree completely. A person sometimes is not there for a friend, as the writer was not. It happens. But to excuse it end the friendship? She was never a friend at all.

  • Hi Susan,

    Another, more accurate title would be “How To End A Toxic Relationship Without Losing Your Mind”.

    Sorry you’re not happy with the piece. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. Take care of yourself.

  • Susan

    No that would not be an accurate title for what you wrote. Perhaps it was a toxic relationship but your article did not specify that. In fact, there were no specifics at all. If that was your intention of this piece, you failed miserably.

  • timbrownson

    If I’m being honest I am on the fence with this one.

    I don’t agree we should agree with the other person necessarily, but all arguments like this are about status. The other person thought you’d lowered her status and that feels terrible and causes people to lash out.

    However, if we lower our own status intentionally we don’t feel like that, so taking some of the blame is a good way to defuse the argument and I think you alluded to this.

    A tiny bit of tweaking with more background would have avoided the vitriol.

    Modern technology eh? When people get wound up over a text that could have gone missing in cyber space anyway and see tonality in written communication that was never there. One of the reasons I prefer to speak with people than send texts

  • Alliekitty

    Why would you keep repeating you did nothing wrong after you “empathised”? You were purely placating and that’s more maddening to an upset person than the lie you just told about that you are sorry she’s upset! You didn’t reply to her and you DID something wrong by acting like it’s no big deal. You need some major insight to yourself. You are an awful friend and have no business giving advice. A heartfelt apology would have been better. She’s responsible for her own tirade. Thats real boundaries!

  • Alliekitty

    I don’t see how “empathizing” and then saying you did NOTHING WRONG, over and over can be reconciled but…ok

  • Alliekitty

    Then why did she say she “empathised” and didn’t placate? Confusing

  • Alliekitty

    It seems you have an issue with taking responsibility for your part and the quote in your piece says it all and applies to you as well.

  • LaTrice Dowe

    Here’s what I don’t understand. How can someone be an awful friend after being disrespected? I feel there’s nothing wrong with standing up for yourself. Sounds to me you don’t know your worth at all.

  • LaTrice Dowe

    How is it confusing?!

  • LaTrice Dowe

    Why take responsibility for someone else’s actions? She can’t control how her best friend reacted, so I can’t blame Cate for being stunned!!!

  • Alliekitty

    Are you a sockpuppet or for real a separate person from the author? Or are you just a bully and a dog with a bone? Can you read all of the other posts about the obvious dichotomy of thought here and not come to some conclusion on your own? It looks like you have trouble putting yourself in others shoes which would explain your inability to understand what others are saying.

  • April Galanksy

    I think taking the few seconds to shoot back a text along with “I will be away from my phone for an extended period of time” would have been a better way to handle the situation.

    My suspicion is that the writer may not have been aware that they were “itching for a fight” to end the relationship. I think leaving anyone hanging with the excuse of “giving them space” is far-fetched. I further feel this way because of the repeated snide remarks made by the writer in follow-up about how other friends thought her behavior was reprehensible. So it devolved into a gossipy dump to validate the writer’s righteous indignation? Not very wise.

    Tiny Buddha is always talking about what we put out there is what we get back. Well, I think the negative energy sent out got the negative energy back so it is best that the two involved go their separate ways.

    In each person we have to do a measurement of if there is more good than “bad”. Perhaps the “angry one” learned the greater lesson here.

    There is a lot of superficial “wisdom” going on out there. People who believe they are deep when they are merely at the surface (at best). Truth depth and command of one’s mind is a solitary exercise and that individual is not on line commenting on a website such as this. They are living it. I hope we all get there one day.

  • Susan


    Why do you delete comments that disagree with you? I would suggest that you not post public articles if you cannot take criticism.

    I was notified by Disque that you removed this comment:

    “No that would not be an accurate title for what you wrote. Perhaps it was a toxic relationship but your article did not specify that. In fact, there were no specifics at all. If that was your intention of this piece, you failed miserably.”

    If you are so thin-skinned that you removed the above, you have no business writing. The fact that you did, shows more about you and I would not be surprised that your “friend” is better off now that you are no longer in her life.

  • Saira malik

    That is how you deal with someone on the phone How do you deal with someone in public that makes a personal remark at you and gives you a disapproving look I am in a relationship and my partner is considerably younger then me I had to go to an open evening for my son recently and a woman who I don’t know made such a face and said look at her she has a young man in her house .I walked away then thought no I have to say something but ended up being shouted at by the woman’s best friend denial by the woman that she said anything and a teacher intervening to stop anything further from happening What should I have done because no one has rights to make comments about someone’s personal life

  • Candie


    Thanks for your article.

    Can you give me an example of how to establish ownership?

  • Candie

    “Jealous, are we?” with a smile, and walk away 🙂

    Dont beat yourself up over this.

  • Sorry, I don’t agree with you Sarah, this is a well written article full of good advice and it is there for you to take it or leave it.

    I don’t think it matters who said what, I think the main objective of this story is being treated like a verbal punchbag by a ‘friend’, who exploded about non communication from Cate. Why is she allowed to vent all her frustrations out on Cate?

    It doesn’t matter who is right or who is wrong about when is it appropriate to answer a text message.

    It was the verbal abuse that followed it.

    The ‘friend’ could have calmly spoken to Cate about how upset she was about not receiving a reply.

    She saw red and chose not to.

    A true friend would not explode like that. But I do agree with you about friendship not all about being a close ally and roses and everything, and yes when you get to know someone you need to see all sides of them good and bad and to be accepting of them.

    But sometimes that line gets crossed, too often, and you then have to make the decision to preserve your own sanity and break it off.

  • LibertyL

    Boy, that was well said. I especially liked the paragraph about your friend’s needs being far, far greater than yours, and how you made the decision to choose self-preservation instead of self-sacrifice.
    And yes, if one person is constantly surrounded by conflict and drama, sometimes it’s because the person creates that conflict and drama.
    Thank you for this insightful article and your follow-up comments, Cate.