Auntie SparkNotes: Should I Tell My Judgey Friend Why Other People Don't Like Her?
I have a best friend, and we do everything together. We always hang out together mostly just by ourselves. I thought this was okay, until I started talking to other people and realized that other people don't like my friend, and she has been described as very self righteous.
I never noticed it before, because she's not this way around me, but I started to pay attention more and realized that some of the things she does and says are very 'I'm better than you.' For instance, she got the chance to go to a foreign country on an exchange program with other kids at our school for a few weeks, and when she came back she was talking about how no one would talk to her the entire trip. I felt bad for her, until I talked to someone else who went on the trip and they told me that she spent the entire trip tattling on students who were drinking, to adults who didn't care because drinking wasn't illegal for teenagers in that country.
Of course, I'm sorry that people were mean to her and I don't condone that, but I don't think she understands that she can't be pulling crap like that. She also likes to talk down to people and acts like her choices are better than others'. I'd just never noticed it before because she doesn't do it to me.
I told my mom about this and I asked her if I should say something to her, and she said no, because my friend's perspective is off and there's nothing I can or should try to do. But we're going to college next year and I'm worried about her. Right now I'm her only friend. My question is: should I try to talk to my friend about what she's doing? Or should I let her figure it out on her own? I want to let her know, because I don't want people to be mean to her like they are now, but I also don't know if it's my place to do so or if she would figure it out better on her own.
And that, darling Sparkler, is the delightful irony of judging the judgmental. ...At least, I think it's irony? Auntie, along with probably everyone else who came of age in the 1990s, still has some trouble with that word thanks to Alanis Morrissette having come along and confused the hell out of the entire concept.
But the point is, of course it's not your friend's place to be a smug, judgmental jerk about how other people think, feel, or behave—and yet, it's also not your place to tell her that she ought to see the world differently. Annoying as it may be, she's allowed to believe that she's better and smarter and more righteous than everyone else. (Or more likely, to be desperately looking for ways to believe it and behaving terribly as a result, since this sort of behavior is usually the hallmark of a person who's deeply insecure and trying to build herself up by tearing other people down.)
Here's what is your place, though: to speak up when you see another person being treated or talked about shoddily, even when the person doing the shoddy thing is someone you care about. And that's not only an option, it's kind of a requirement. It's okay to love your friend as she is, to accept her flaws, and to decide that her friendship is worth having even if it's in her nature to occasionally act like a self-righteous twit. But what's not okay is to be a silent party to said self-righteous twittiness, which sends a message to her and to everyone else that you condone her unpleasantness instead of just tolerating it.
Which means that when your friend talks down to or about someone, you can and should say, "I wish you wouldn't talk about x that way," or "That's really not fair," or "Geez, what's with the judging?" (And if she asks what you mean, that's your chance to say, "I don't think you realize this, but it really upsets people when you say stuff like that to them, and it's upsetting to me to hear you talk that way. It's actually pretty rude.")
And since your friend does apparently make these comments in front of you, even if she doesn't direct them at you personally, it sounds like you'll have ample opportunity to register your objections. And hopefully, the realization that she's at risk of alienating her only remaining friend will give her good reason to start being kinder, especially since she seems to respect you and your opinions in a way that she doesn't anyone else's. In fact, if anyone could make a difference in the way she treats other people, it's probably you. So speak up when appropriate, and see what happens.
Because really, the worst that can happen is that it doesn't work — in which case you can take comfort in having what you could in the name of friendship and human decency.
Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.
Want more info about how this column works? Check out the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.