Help! How Do I Deal With My Overly Sensitive Friend Who Takes Everything Personally?

Have you ever had that one friend who just can’t let it go? Whether it’s a small comment you made off-handedly or your interaction with someone else in front of them, they just can’t seem to not take everything personally or get offended by everything. There’s no pleasing them, and you exhaust yourself in the process of trying to keep up with their high-maintenance (and sometimes self-centered) attitude.

By Gwen Farrell3 min read
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The big issue with these kinds of friendships is on our end; we have a decision to make. We might really want a relationship with this individual, but we’re burnt out from trying to please them. They’re exhausting to be around from constantly having to walk on eggshells, but for whatever reason, we can’t seem to cut ties for good. So how do we deal with the overly sensitive friend who takes everything personally?

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

A little empathy can go a long way. If we’re still trying to salvage our friendship with the girlfriend who takes every comment, gesture, or behavior on our part as a personal slight, we might inevitably start to wonder why. We might even start to wonder if we’re the problem. And while we shouldn’t alter absolutely everything about ourselves just to please this one person, we might be able to put our finger on what sets them off or what triggers them most and try to avoid it. Maybe it’s conversations about family or men if they’ve faced hardship or bad luck in both departments. Maybe it’s going to certain places or hanging out with certain people. While we can’t mold our personalities according to their taste, if it’ll set off an argument and it’s easily avoidable on our end, we might consider forgoing it for our own sake.

Understand Their Mindset

For whatever reason, the friend in question has a victim complex. And perhaps there’s some aspect of their life that warrants this. Maybe they’ve fallen on hard times financially, their marriage is on the rocks, or they don’t seem to have a lot of other female friends. It’s natural for everyone to go through brief periods of focusing on the misfortunes in their life or self-pity. But constantly exhibiting certain behavior which somehow always places others in the wrong and themselves in the position of being disadvantaged is not normal.

It may be selfishness, narcissism, or a victim complex, or they could just be an insecure person. 

It may be selfishness, narcissism, or a victim complex, or they could just be a sensitive person. They might really be struggling with insecurity and low self-esteem, which is where their sensitivity comes from. Regardless of their true character, getting to the heart of their motivations could help you understand why they behave the way they do.

Use Specific Language

I don’t think any of us really want to spend time and energy on a relationship we constantly have to tiptoe around, but it’s understandable to want to try to make things work. If that’s the current path you’re on, you might have to spend extra time on communication with them. If they’re constantly getting offended or upset over things you’ve said, try using specific language. Be precise if you have to be, so there’s no way they could misunderstand your meaning. A lot of hurt feelings can be stirred up over ambiguity, so nip that in the bud if possible. If you mean “I really don’t want to go out tonight,” say that instead of “I might have other plans, but I’m not sure yet.”

Validate, but Don’t Coddle

From time to time, we might be in the wrong in certain situations. Maybe we’re upset with them and we say something intentionally hurtful or upsetting, though we regret it later. This is human and everyone does it. And while it’s important to validate your friend, it’s equally important not to coddle them.

If they’re talking about a situation they felt wronged in, validate their feelings. It’s important to be a supportive friend. But if they’re actually in the wrong, tactfully make sure they see how. As their friend, you might be the only person in their life who isn’t a yes-man. A real friend will critique bad actions gently, and they’ll also call out bad behavior when they see it instead of reaffirming said bad behavior.

Know It’s Probably Not You

It could be insecurity or poor self-esteem, but it’s just as likely your friend is narcissistic or self-absorbed. It’s understandable to perhaps get offended over one off-handed or poorly-worded comment on our end, but if they have an issue with everything on our end…it’s them, not you.

A real friend will critique bad actions gently.

We tend to focus on the intricacies and complexities of romantic relationships, but female friendships can be just as tenuous. There are different personalities at play, different attitudes, lifestyles, and dynamics…not to mention that women can be just as cruel to each other as we pretend most men are to us 90% of the time. It’s hard and sometimes exhausting to maintain a relationship with someone who will take everything poorly no matter what we say, but in these cases, you should know it’s not a you problem.

Decide Your Limits

As with any tough relationship you constantly find yourself agonizing over, the time will eventually come when you’ll have to make a decision. Is this kind of behavior something I can live with or tolerate, or is it so pervasive and so much of a negative in our friendship that I need to end things?

Breaking up with friends is hard. But sometimes, it’s inevitable, for whatever reason. Whatever you decide to do, always know your limits. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of, and don’t let yourself be led into thinking there’s something wrong with you because your friend has their own issues. Have an exit or escape plan if you need one, but if you can, make it work. What it really comes down to is if their absence will not just be an absence in your life, but a gaping hole. If you can’t imagine your life without them, don’t lose hope. 

Closing Thoughts

Sometimes you have a friend who takes things too personally or gets offended by everything. Sometimes, you are that friend. It’s a common occurrence, but it might also be a drain on your social life. 

Some friends are easy to make but hard to lose. But others feel like a continuous workout, constantly jumping higher and higher to meet a certain standard they’ve set for you. It’s fine to have standards of our own though, and one of those should be not being accused of careless or hurtful behavior when we’re really doing our best. Not every joke, comment, or thought is meant to be taken in a serious way. While they have a right to be treated respectfully, you have just as much of a right to that too, and drama isn’t conducive to a healthy friendship. 

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