2

Premise

I do not feel good whenever I have strained a friendship, or any interpersonal relationship, and can find no recourse to mend the friction. The main reason being (and it is admitedly selfish), I want the most recent memory of me in someone else to be a positive one not a negative one.

Background

One such example was this person I was in a religious club with for four years. The majority of our interactions were within this club. She was a very good logistical manager and was generally positive to people, even if it meant overlooking other issues that were always blaringly obvious to me. I was on setup crew. I was (and still have vestiges of), for lack of a better term, a nit picky prick and always aimed to ensure things were done well. I manifested this abrasive behavior in the form of is this taken care of? do you have this down? and asking relatively ancillary questions which (as I understand now) would drive many people insane. It almost seemed like she was starting to develop a shield around me, as we it almost became impossible to carry on a conversation outside of the club. Another factor was that before my current girlfriend, I had a crush on her was relatively forward about asking for a coffee date, and posted on a "crushes" page (which was meant to be a joke page) about her. She then rejected me over FB messenger (unrelated, but more details don't necessarily hurt) and completely ceased communication outside of the context of the club. Throughout the whole four years I was still very focused on logistical details of the club and (maybe because of projecting stress on to "whoever is in charge") the abrasive behavior continued.

Every now and then she comes back for several events in which the club is gathered, the most recent of which was College Graduation. The whole "invisible wall" thing is still present and I can't even get a hi response. She went up and said hi and hugged a friend (who was also my friend) right next to me, but then treated me as if I didn't exist. In the grand scheme of things the whole matter probably doesn't mean much, but I personally don't like "leaving a bad taste in someone else's mouth".

Question

My main goal is to relieve her of the negative feelings she has when we meet. We don't really need to become friends, Just no longer "enemies". I'm looking for a way to convey to her that she no longer needs to put up a barrier between us.

  • This question seems to be asking about relationship advice. Interpersonal Skills alone aren't likely going to be able to mend relationships, so therefore every answer is going to have a degree of opinion on how to do that. I'm voting to close. – Clay07g May 24 '18 at 11:52
  • 1
    @Clay07g Is that still the case after my edit? In my eyes finding a way to convey you're sorry to someone is clearly an interpersonal skill. I agree that the title might have to be reworded but from the actual question asked I don't think it's off topic here. – Imus May 24 '18 at 15:08
  • @Imus There's actually no question in the body. The result of that makes it so the question and answers have no immediate benefit to anyone else reading. Best case, it seems like a phrasing request or a request to figure out what to do. This is made more evident in the fact that the highest voted and accepted answer is a strategy of what to do. Ironically, the top answer recommends a strategy that requires no interpersonal skills, although it's excellent advice. – Clay07g May 24 '18 at 15:21
6

By respecting the boundaries they have set.

Your description of "an invisible wall" or "developing a shield around you" sounds to me as if you are clearly describing boundaries she was setting with you. A typical cause for why these boundaries have become so strict that I think applies here would be that your actions violated their personal priorities/comfort zone so they set a boundary, and then repeated failure to notice and subsequent breaching of said boundaries have resulted in the boundaries getting stricter and stricter. However why she set the boundaries is not the important part, the important part from your perspective is that she has set them and like all boundaries in relationships, we need to respect those boundaries and not try to overcome them.

Although it focuses more on closer relationships and therefore less restricting boundaries, I think a lot of the points in this article apply directly to your situation.

If we truly expect our boundaries to be respected, if we truly believe that everyone has the right to set reasonable boundaries wherever they need to set them, if we truly believe that nobody owes anybody an explanation or justification of why they want or need to say “no” when they do…we have to respect that.

...

In time, with practice, we’ll discover that respecting other peoples’ boundaries is an essential part of not only nurturing our relationships— but also building our own self-respect and self-reliance.

I think the rest of the article also has a number of comments that seem to apply really nicely to your situation, just take it with a grain of salt and understand that the author is focusing primarily on intimate relationships.

Essentially what I am saying is that it is up to her to lift these boundaries at her own pace (if ever) and if she has progressively created more and more boundaries until she is ignoring your existence then pushing forwards anyway and trying to have a discussion with her about it will only damage your friendship further. You have to let her decide when she is okay with discussing these things with you. Be respectful of the boundaries she has set and if you continue this respect then over time, she may lift some boundaries and you each may slowly rebuild your relationship.

5

I think that the most honest thing from your side, would be to try and ask her[1] if you can appoligize (it's kind of what I understand you'd like to do) for your nitty/abrasive behavior in the past four years.

It seems that this understanding just fall on you recently, and I think it would be a nice approach to come and share it from a place that you know you misbehaved, you regret it, and you understand you were not nice to her.

For example:

  • The following is an example, but only if you REALLY mean that, and you regret your behavior and want to fix it. If it's purely from a selfish point, and you don't care about her feelings or how you behaved - it will probably be noticed.

Hey XXX, I was recently thinking about myself here in the club, and my behavior towards you and people I worked with, and understood I wasn't fair. I should've been so pushing, and I'm sure that I could get the same results with a better attitude that would make the working environment more pleasent.
I'm sorry that so much fell on you, you didn't deserve it and it has nothing to do with you.
I really hope we will be able mend our relationship, or at least not to be strangers, I'll do my best to make it happen.

Another thing, if you think you misbehaved to others as well (even if you care less about them) - it will be good to also talk to them. It will also show that your intents are from a good place and that you apologize and want to clear and mend your relationships in the club, or in general.

Note: If I misunderstood your intentions and thoughts, or you're going to keep acting the same way (even if towards other people in the same place) - it worth nothing, and I don't think there's much you can do. Maybe only to try and explain that this is how you're as a person, and it's not aimed to her.


[1] You could do it in one of the times she arrives, or message her about your intent and wish - what you think would be more comfortable. I personally prefer the face to face method - even if that means that it couldn't happen at the exact moment (e.g she'll give you an OK for a talk, but not today because she has plans).

2

EDIT: I was writing halfway and I saw arieljannai's post. Yes, I agreed and you may some of overlapping answers.

First, if you are really sincere about mending the relationships, find an opportunity to apologize to her, and explain that you are aware of your past behaviors and you are changing it.

Hey, I would like to talk you about the times where we were in the club, and... I would like to apologize for my behaviors back then, for being too immature [change the actions/behaviors you deem fit]. I know it must have caused unpleasant memories for you back then, and I am regretful of my actions. I am changing it now, and hope to mend our relationship.

She may or may not choose to forgive you (I am guessing it would highly be the latter, which is probably normal and expected), but the replied would probably be something along the line "ah, is okay".

However, this is the very first step that you will need to do. Whether or not she accepts your apology, if you are sincere and serious about a change, then things should naturally takes its course (like what arieljannai mentioned, it will worth nothing if you are not going to change).

Then, the step would to allow time play its role. From your post, I reckon that you will not have much chance to get along with her except for events through the club. But as time goes by, and that you have apologized to her, and provided that you are determined to change, she should slowly open up her heart to you.

Regarding to your 2nd question, "If thats not possible, what do I concretely learn from said situation?".

With or without having mended the relationship, there are definitely takeaways from this situation.

  • Aware and acknowledge on your own behavoirs
  • Determine if your behaviors have caused any unpleasant experiences to people (not only to her) around you
  • Change your behaviors to a desire one
  • Make actions (like apologize) to people around you who might have been hurt by your behaviors
  • Constantly review your behaviors
2

I write this from the perspective of someone who was bullied by someone and has regained some sort of friendly but distant relationship to that person.

Every relationship involves the some sort of trust. The trust in a stranger is different than that to a lover or family but when you talk to a stranger you still trust them not to hurt you (or else you would not talk to them).

That she errected several boundaries around you is a sign that you lost the trust that she had in you initially through your behaviour. That your behaviour continued for four years makes it even harder to kit.

So you have taken the first step and realized that your behaviour was the cause - this is good. Next you have to be honest to yourself about why you want to repair that relationship: for the sake of a good relationship with her or for the sake of your own conscience. If it is the latter, it will show and you have to ask yourself whether you have the endurance to change yourself and regain her trust with that motivation.

Earning back the trust you lost isn't just done with apologizing once. Yes, apologizing is an important first step, but you have to really change yourself and show that in your behaviour for quite a time for her to even consider to lower her barriers around you.

Apologize, change yourself. But in the end she has to decide whether she wants to lower her barriers or not and you should respect that decision.

Losing unwanted behaviour is not easy and depending how ingrained and harmful it is you may want to consider professional behavioural training and self reflection (if that is acessible at your location).

2

Having run into many people whom I have grown to highly dislike (bullying issues growing up), I would be quite annoyed with them trying to talk to me too. Some have tried to talk to me a few years removed from school while other's mostly knew to stay away.

Some have come to me and virtually the first thing said was sorry about X, Y, Z back in high school, I was kind of a jerk then and then proceeded to show genuine interest in the now and what I am up to. Others, it took interacting with them several times to see that they have changed through their actions and not words (because frankly, words are cheap).

If you truly want to make amends, it won't be easy, and honestly, you may never become friends again. But you can at least take the weight off your chest by saying your piece. I had my 10-year high school reunion about 2 years ago in which several bullies approached me and told me how sorry they were for the issues they caused. Doesn't mean we are now best friends, but hearing that from them and in turn, returning forgiveness allowed them to lift a weight off their shoulders as well as helped me to carry less hostility in my heart.

So first, I would find a way to get her into a position to be able to hear you out. make sure it is sincere, genuine, and honest. It's really easy to call BS when you know a person is just saying it without meaning anything. Let her know she doesn't need to respond, she doesn't need to tell you that she forgives you, but that you just wanted to let her know how you wish to apologize and regret the actions you took towards her during your club meetings.

Say whatever it is you want to get off your chest then smile and thank them for hearing you out and then politely dismiss yourself. Give them time to process the words you said. Maybe they will reply instantly to you with what you hope she will say, or she will tell you that she forgives you. Maybe she will come to you later/text you later to give you a response, or she will let you walk off and you never speak to her again. It's possible she just starts talking to you right then and there like you guys are friends again.

It's also possible you might not hear anything from her until the next time you run into each other somewhere and she waves at you, recognizing your existence. Even if you don't talk, that's a success, right? you at least got her to acknowledge you whereas before she didn't.

Ultimately, you can't force a person to accept an apology, nor can you force them to give you the response you wish. All you can do is what you need to make the situation right. Know that at the very least this person heard the words you said and will at least have that as her last memory.

1

My experience is that it is very likely impossible to mend such a relationship. You can make a sincere apology because it's the decent thing to do, but should expect to be ignored forever and be very grateful if you're not. I accepted this after I considered how I tend to react if someone has been obnoxious to me, if they later apologize I'll accept their apology because it's the decent thing to do, and I'll certainly think better of them, but it'd take a miracle for me to ever actually - to put it bluntly - want them around.

There are so many people in the world, why should I waste my time on someone who has proven themselves repeatedly to be someone I don't want in my life, just because they have professed some measure of self-awareness? I'm thrilled for them, but chances are excellent I still won't like them.

In my own life I've taken these ruined relationships as my personal idiot tax, the price paid for being obnoxious to others. I'm grateful though, because the lessons were painful enough to be a spur for change and that change allowed me to have good relationships with other people. If I hadn't destroyed a couple of friendships and learned from that experience, I probably wouldn't have my wife now, and she's the best person I've ever met.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.