Real Life Dilemma: “My friend is crossing the line”


Last week, I was chatting with a friend about a sticky situation. She is part of a tight-knit group of friends, and whenever one of the guys has a few drinks, he tends to be touchy-feely and say suggestive things to her. I happen to know both parties and see that the poor guy just can’t help himself, he has a terrible crush and she is really lovely. He also has been known to be outwardly jealous when she pays attention to other men.

To date, my friend has basically ignored the behavior, knowing that this particular guy is a good friend and a nice guy at heart. She hopes there will not be a recurrence. Unfortunately, this awkward situation has become a pattern to the point it has crossed the line. Her intentions are Platonic but she doesn’t want to confront him and make the situation more uncomfortable, particularly because they are part of this tight knit group and see each other frequently. She is right in assuming, it is likely he may deny any of it was intentional and she is misunderstanding him to protect his ego anyway. Mutual acquaintances are starting to wonder if they are more than friends and she is at a loss for what to do. Confront? Not  confront? When and where is the time and place? How to be sure to keep the friendship?

Here are my thoughts:

Agree wholeheartedly this is sticky but part of growing up is learning to stand up for yourself when you are uncomfortable. You must confront to stop the behavior, people are getting the wrong idea and more importantly, you don’t want him to do it! My advice, is to wait until you find yourself in this situation (and you will), when he makes a comment, puts his hands in the wrong place, his arm around you in a less than “best buds” manner, etc and use this approach:

Infraction 1- immediately respond (directly to him and not in a crowd):  “Hey, don’t do that, friend.Conduct unbecoming of my best bud.”  Consider him warned, Smile laugh it off.

If infractions persist- immediately respond: “Hey, didn’t I tell you about [saying things/touching me] like that last time? Don’t do that, bro! Smile, keep your distance for the remainder of the night so he gets you are put out.

Follow  up- the next time  you see him, pull him aside and say, “I just want to be sure we’re cool. I love being your friend but last night (and on a few other occasions) I didn’t like when you [name behavior you called out]. Will you not do that anymore? (If applicable: You have a girlfriend) I know you don’t mean to but it makes me uncomfortable since we are and I always want us to be such good friends.

If he is as good a friend as you think he is, using this approach should end the behavior. If it persists you may need to reconsider if this guy is such a good friend.

This is not relevant to this particular situation but from a public service standpoint, etiquette/group dynamic should never be a consideration if someone WAY crosses the line (and only you can be the judge of that). In that situation you need to react far more sternly. If you feel threatened by anyone or that someone has crossed the line in a professional environment use a one strike and you’re out policy. Make clear the answer is no, get away and stay away. You may want to consider confidentially noting to HR if a colleague is involved.

Bottom line: If you have asked him to stop and he doesn’t respect that, he is not the friend you think he is and you need to keep your distance. It won’t mean withdrawing from the group but you will need to withdraw from being in that situation.

Readers- have you been in a similar situation? What did you do?