“What am I, chopped liver?” you want to splutter. Since not everyone appreciates eating chopped liver, that Jewish-English expression signifies frustration or anger at the bully who ignores you like a disliked side dish. When discussing how to find courage to confront an adult bully, the expression fits those feelings of insignificance.
An adult bully wants to make you feel insignificant. Bullies feel that way inside, and act to make others feel like rejected side dishes of chopped chicken livers.
Part 1 discussed foundations of courage in general. Part 2 looked specifically at the adult bully in the workplace. We turn now to discuss the subject of:
How to find courage to confront an adult bully who is a friend.
Chopped Liver Friend
Finding courage and confronting a friend who is bullying you can tie you in emotional knots. The friend has offended you repeatedly, and you get the impression that it was not accidental. You once spent enjoyable hours together, but lately, you feel like – well like unimportant chopped liver when your friend comes around. You know what I mean. If you were on a banquet table, you would be in a tiny, nondescript side dish set in an obscure place almost under a big green leaf of the centerpiece.
The trouble is that you fear an encounter will make your friend take offense in return, and the friendship will crumble. You may decide the whole idea is a contemptible, low road. The truth is, however, that finding courage and confronting a friend about a problem is the high road. It is the safest place for you both if you base it on courage.
Part 1 of this series lays the foundation by defining authentic courage. If you have not yet read that article, you will want to do so before continuing.
The Safety of Courage
Finding courage and confronting a friend with that trait bases your discussion on convictions, not feelings. Feelings are part of your personality, while convictions are part of your character. Feelings alter, but convictions do not. Convictions are strongly held beliefs that you have hammered out and committed not to change.
Imagine each of these two friends approaching the other on the same matter. In the first, Rose confronts Joshua with feelings. In the second, Joshua confronts Rose with convictions.
- “Where were you at the barbecue yesterday, Joshua?” Rose begins. “Everyone was asking where you were, and I didn’t know what to tell them. Why do you insist on being at odds with everyone? I feel especially like you’re trying to be as different from me as you can be. You won’t go to the parties and things I attend. You’re always wearing your shirts buttoned to the neck as though you want people to think you’re a stuffy banker or something. You never compliment me on what I’m wearing, and I just feel like you’re ashamed to be my friend. Is that how you feel? It bothers me more all the time, and I just felt like I had to ask.”
- “I don’t want to hurt you, Rose,” Joshua begins, “so I’m going to say this as nicely as I can. I’ve noticed that the longer we’re friends, the more you try to push me into your mold. You ask more and more questions such as why I don’t wear Tee shirts and more relaxed styles; why I don’t take time to compliment you every time I see you; and why I don’t attend all the parties you choose to attend. I’m not trying to be uncooperative, Rose. I’m trying to live up to my personal conviction that it isn’t necessary to conform without good reason. I need to be true to who I am, and I hope you can accept me for who I am.
Rose builds her case on the shifting sands of feelings. Joshua might easily think that a puff of wind will blow those feelings a different direction, leaving him to wonder how their friendship can endure.
Joshua’s courage of convictions makes the safer, stronger foundation for confronting a friend. While Rose might respond with beliefs of her own, she knows clearly where the friendship stands, and is likely to respect Joshua’s convictions.
Proceed with Caution
Finding courage and confronting a friend may seem too big a task. You may decide to avoid confrontation, hoping in that way to avoid damage to the friendship. Regrettably, those who avoid confrontation open themselves to greater emotional risks. Frustration and stress may attack because your friend hurt your feelings and you did nothing to correct the situation. Demons of anger and resentment may flit between you and your friend as you ponder his or her inconsideration and disrespect for you. Eventually, you will probably create a way to distance yourself politely rather than to let yourself become a well-trodden doormat.
Confrontation based on convictions is good when it will keep an important friendship fit and strong. However, that confrontation must proceed with a big helping of caution.
These five guidelines will help keep you on course when confronting a friend.
- Determine which of your convictions apply in this case and focus on those, not on your feelings.
- Plan how you will explain your conviction(s) so that your friend will not sidetrack you before you finish.
- Identify your goal, i.e., the desired result of undergoing confrontation.
- Confront your friend in person, never through email, texting, phone, or other digital means. This will avoid those so possible misunderstandings that result in more harm than good.
- Present your personal beliefs (convictions) without in any way blaming your friend for his or hers.
Learn how to find courage to confront an adult bully who is also a friend. Then get busy finding that courage – confronting that friend – and emerging with a stronger friendship. That is its own reward. You will have strengthened your convictions as you speak up for them. You will have learned to face up to others when you sense a wrong. Just be careful to exercise self-control so that you do not swing the pendulum too far in your eagerness and confront things that are not part of the picture.