My best friend just had a bad experience. She’s okay, but it was frightening, and I was pretty worried about her, too. I know she’s stressed, but when I was offering support, she snapped at me! I do understand, but I don’t like being treated that way, either. How do you balance boundaries with compassion? — Beverly
It is hard–you’re dealing with your own fear and worry. And you’re trying to support her at the same time.
Can you let her be angry without taking it personally? We know that’s not always easy. People who are frightened and feeling powerless often lash out. It doesn’t make them right. It just makes them feel a bit better for a few moments. She may also feel ashamed and be blaming herself for whatever happened (people do that, even if they did nothing wrong). AND she may be trying to protect you by bottling up her feelings…only to have them squirt out sideways.
You can’t know for sure what she’s feeling, but realizing where she might be coming from sometimes gives us space to look at the situation more clearly. It might be helpful to see if this is a pattern that needs dealing with, or a one time event. Does she have a habit of snapping at you when she’s stressed? If so, talking to her when she’s in a good place may help you get clarity. She may not be aware of the pattern, or your offer of help may be triggering some old fears about not being strong enough. An open and honest conversation can be healing for both of you. It often deepens friendships when we share what’s really going on, rather than being polite and “protecting” the other person.
There isn’t an absolute right or wrong here. You get to decide what feels healthy, loving, and empowered for YOU. And you can accept yourself right where you are, whatever she says…
Here is some tapping (EFT) that might help. Let us know how you feel afterwards in the comments below.
Karate Chop: Even though she snapped, and just when I was being especially caring and supportive, I’m ok and I can accept me and know she’s struggling, too.
Even though she wasn’t appreciative, or even nice, and that kind of crossed a boundary for me, I am ok, here and now, and I can let some of this mind chatter go.
Even though I’m trying to decide if I did the right thing or not, and how I could help, (I thought I was being so careful!), this may have nothing to do with me, and everything to do with her own mental stories.
Top of the Head: She snapped at me!
Eyebrow: She isn’t telling me the details.
Side of the Eye: I want to give her space.
Under the Eye: And I want to be supportive.
Under the Nose: I want to be understanding.
Chin: And I want to have my own boundaries…
Collarbone: Meet my own needs.
Under the Arm: This conflict is messing me up!Top of the Head: How do I find balance?
Eyebrow: I keep trying to think it through.
Side of the Eye: Figure it out.
Under the Eye: Decide what’s right.
Under the Nose: What if there isn’t a particular right or wrong?
Chin: I can listen to my guidance…
Collarbone: And my body…
Under the Arm: And be in the present moment.
Top of the Head: I’m trying to figure out the past.
Eyebrow: Was I right or wrong?
Side of the Eye: Good or bad?
Under the Eye: I’m trying to decide on the future.
Under the Nose: Do I set a boundary…
Chin: Or be compassionate?
Collarbone: What if I could be in the present…
Under the Arm: And stop twisting myself up in knots?
Top of the Head: I am ok, and I bet “we” will be, too.
Take a deep breath.
We tend to look at things like this as black and white. But you can be compassionate and have boundaries. Imagine saying something like “Sweetheart, I know you’re upset and I want to give you support and space to work through this, but I don’t want to be snapped at. Please don’t take your anger out on me.” How does that feel?
A lot of us were taught to hide what we’re feeling because we’re ashamed or fear it might be used against us. But there is power in speaking the truth. You might encourage her to use her words–to say “I am angry and I feel scared” rather than acting it out on those closest to her–if you feel that’s helpful. And you can model that for her in the future if you want.
Sharing emotions honestly can be really healing. So often we hide them to “protect” those around us, and they end up coming out sideways and hurting the very people we wanted to shield. Learning to have boundaries and be compassionate at the same time can be challenging, but this skill can make you a master at friendship, parenting and relationships!
If you want to learn more about boundaries, and feeling safe enough to share your feelings, our Free Yourself Program is a great choice. We’d love to help you transform your relationships, too!