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My friends are talking about me behind my back

Our agony aunt Mary Fenwick offers words of wisdom on a friendship problem

by Psychologies

friendship group

I have a large group of friends, who, due to work and other commitments, I haven’t seen as much of lately. One of them calls me a lot and tries to keep in touch, which I appreciate, but recently she has been telling me that our other friends have been talking about me behind my back, saying negative things. This obviously upsets me, and I want to call them out on it, but my friend begs me not to say anything because they would know she told me. Should I say something, or protect my friend? I’m not sure who I can trust. Sophie

I am only responding to the first and last sentence of your letter, because the middle bit makes me think of whispering behind the bike sheds. With my daughters, we have a rule that any sentence which starts with ‘Apparently…’ is unlikely to end well.

The only bit we know for sure is that you haven’t seen as much of your friends lately.

Trust yourself and what you see and hear directly. Beware of the psychological effect of negative priming, which is what you are getting from your friend in the middle. For example, in one experiment, people who heard words associated with ageing actually started to walk more slowly.

How about you get in touch with your group of friends holding words in mind like ‘fun, laughter, re-connect’ and take it from there? Trust that anything important will emerge.  

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email mary@psychologies.co.uk, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line

Photograph: iStock