Q&A with Geoff: How Do I Get My Best Friend to Forgive Me?

q&a with geoff May 24, 2023


My best friend is very upset with me because I couldn’t comfort her during a time of need. This has happened multiple times. I am afraid that I might say something to her that might be out of line.

I have apologized to her multiple times, but she says she can’t trust me and doesn’t want to talk to me. What effort should I make for her to believe me?

What effort should I make that feels out of the ordinary? 


It sounds like you’re in a tricky situation with your best friend. When trust is damaged in any relationship, it can take time and effort to mend. However, your willingness to put forth this effort is already a significant first step.

I have no idea if she’s unwilling to be in a relationship with you anymore, so that may be something you have to accept. Also, I don’t know your friend’s side of the story, but here are some suggestions you might consider as you work to rebuild trust.

She needs to see that you care about her perspective. It’s important to consider her feelings and where she’s coming from. She needed you during a difficult time, and she feels let down. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are at fault, but acknowledging her feelings can be a powerful first step in healing.

Sometimes we become defensive when our loved one’s experience doesn’t match how we remember things. This only creates more of an impasse as you spend your energy defending different versions of the same story. Instead, recognize that she experienced something painful and it’s initially more important to care about the other person’s pain than it is to get every little detail correct.

If you truly care about your friend’s pain, you can also tell her you care that she’s upset and that her feelings are valid. This isn’t about agreeing or disagreeing with her perspective, but rather demonstrating that you’re truly hearing her. The people we care about need to know we’re touched by their pain. When we are defensive, indifferent, or avoidant, the signal they get is that they don’t matter to us.

Please remember that rebuilding trust takes time. It won’t be repaired with one conversation, or perhaps even a few. Be patient with her and yourself during this process.

You’re not expected to know what she’s been through. This is why it’s critical to be direct but unassuming during the repair process. If you’re unsure about what she needs from you during her times of need, ask her directly. It’s better to ask and understand than to guess and misunderstand.

I know nothing of the injuries that created this breach of trust. However, I do know that broken trust is built on actions, not words. Show her that you can be trusted through your consistent actions and reliability, especially around how you handle her expression of pain and hurt.

If there are behavioral patterns that damaged the relationship, I hope you’re doing the personal work to repair those and live differently.

Sometimes it can be helpful to involve a neutral third party like a counselor or a church leader who can provide guidance and mediate the situation. Please don’t involve someone who is taking your side and will create a dynamic where she will feel manipulated or cornered.

I wouldn’t worry about doing “out of the ordinary” actions, as you mentioned. In my experience, those grand gestures usually invite more doubt and scrutiny. Plus, they’re often not sustainable. Instead, have the courage to look closely at your own contributions, own your part and make the needed changes.

Your friend may never want to talk with you again, so please recognize that this may be the end of the friendship. If she still matters to you, then keep an open door and an open heart for a future reunion.

No need to defend yourself, involve others in gossip or criticize her choice to pull away. Carry on with your life, make needed adjustments, learn from this experience and continue to build healthy relationships. 

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