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Social Graces: How to address a friend who keeps bringing up your past

Maya Mokh, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: Your friend keeps embarrassing you in social circles by bringing up things you did in the past for laughs. How do you gracefully put a stop to it?

A: This is a great question because I have experienced this issue firsthand. A friend has done it to me for years. My usual response is to smile and try to laugh off whatever tale she is resurrecting. For the most part, the things she chooses to recount tend to be what she perceives to be on the humorous side, and just between us, they would be funny.

I do find that laughing off these moments is the best way to handle them. There is no need to call out my friend in front of everyone else. Laughing at them puts me in the position of laughing at myself. I find that self-deprecating humor is well-received by others. There is no reason to make an uncomfortable situation any more awkward.

After listening to my friend recount the same story numerous times, I have taken her aside and asked her to stop regaling others with my embarrassing moments. I have told her that I am not happy with having her make fun of me.

In these situations, it is important to let the other person know how bringing up past events, that are not always complimentary, makes you feel. People fail to consider another person’s feelings. Asking the question, “Do you realize how this makes me feel?” is the best approach. “Feel” is the key word.

Another tack, when you see this coming, is to stop the person right there and say, “Do you mind not telling that story again? I think everyone has heard it before.”

The less attention you draw to the situation the better.

 

— Lydia Ramsey, founder and owner of “Manners That Sell,” https://lydiaramsey.com.

A: When your friend always embarrasses you by bringing up things from your past, it’s a great time to advocate for yourself And one of the best tools of an advocate is questions. First, you might want to start by questioning yourself.

Why are you embarrassed? That feeling of embarrassment is caused by a thought. And if you can change that thought — no embarrassment. So first consider what thoughts you are thinking that are making you feel embarrassed. Is it “I wish I hadn’t done that” or is it “I looked like a fool”? Once you identify the thought that’s causing the embarrassment, consider whether you could choose a different thought. A few to try on for size are “I’m so proud of how much I’ve grown” or “Look at how much I’ve changed over the years.” Sometimes this process of questioning yourself is enough and the embarrassment is gone.

But if not, it’s time to question your friend. I’d avoid the question “Why are you always embarrassing me?” as “why” questions can put people on the defense. Instead try “tell me what is going through your head when you tell those stories” or “what do you find interesting about telling those old stories?” Questions are magic and sometime your curiosity will allow your friend to examine their own motives. This often leads to you getting the results you want without losing the friendship.

— Heather Hansen, self-advocacy expert and author of “Advocate to Win,” https://advocatetowin.com.

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