Am I the Jerk?

Sometimes when a friend’s mad at you, it’s hard to understand why—especially when you don’t think you did anything wrong. We asked our expert panel to help us figure out when you may be at fault—and how to fix the situation.

You know the feeling.

A friend seems angry—maybe they saw you across the room joking around with their boyfriend—and now they refuse to speak to you. In your mind, you did nothing wrong. You’re surprised and hurt, but mostly you’re just super confused. Can’t they see this is really no big deal?

Maybe not. Whether you realize it or not, your actions can have totally inadvertent consequences, and until someone creates an app that can play Relationship Referee, it can be hard for two angry people to figure out who’s at fault. So we asked a few impartial experts to weigh in on some of your most complicated dramas and answer once and for all: Are you the jerk?

CASE ONE: Uh-Oh B.0.

THE DILEMMA: “I overheard some girls talking in the bathroom about how my friend’s body odor is super strong. I didn’t want my friend to hear it from these randos, so I gently told her what I heard. She got super offended, ran off, and now she’s not talking to me. I thought I was doing her a favor by telling her the truth. Am I the jerk?” 

THE VERDICT: You are not the jerk. Friends do the right thing, even when it’s hard. Though you didn’t mean to hurt her, your friend had to deal with two painful things at once: The sting of people commenting on her body, and the shame of having an odor problem. You made the right move, but you can’t control how she reacts. 

THE NEXT STEP: If your friend shared awkward rumors about you, wouldn’t you want a second to take it in? Give her a little space. In a few days, ask her to talk, and commiserate with her. Say, “I see why you were hurt. I just want you to know I’m still your friend.”


THE DILEMMA: “I was kinda dating a guy, but as we hung out more, he started to annoy me. Once the initial crush wore off, all the romantic stuff he did started to feel super awkward. I couldn’t deal with having a serious breakup talk with him, so I just stopped answering his texts. It’s not like we were officially dating anyway. Am I a jerk?” 

THE VERDICT: You are the jerk. Since your conversations went beyond casual small talk, and you were “kinda dating,” you should have leveled with him and acknowledged how you were feeling. Totally ghosting someone you’ve shared even some meaningful connection with—especially when he didn’t do anything to deserve your cold shoulder—is insensitive and unfair. 

THE NEXT STEP: Acknowledge your mistake. You can say, “If someone had ghosted me, I would’ve been hurt. I should have talked to you.” There’s no need to list all the reasons he annoyed you—it sounds like it simply wasn’t a match—but see if you can agree to stay friendly and move on. 


THE DILEMMA: “I’m obsessed with Lizzo and have been waiting forever to see her in concert. Meanwhile, my friend was going to a party where he didn’t know anyone, so I told him I’d tag along as a favor. Then totally last-minute, a different friend surprised me with a Lizzo ticket! I couldn’t pass that up, right? So, I turned down my party friend and went to the concert instead. I thought he would understand, but he’s really mad at me. Am I the jerk?” 

THE VERDICT: You are both jerks! It’s always rude to cancel plans just because something better comes along, especially since you were going to support your friend. But party friend is also a bit of a jerk for not understanding. Surprise dream concerts don’t come around very often, and a more flexible friend might have realized what a lucky chance this was for you. 

THE NEXT STEP: Even if you’re both at fault, you can only control how you respond. Rectify the situation by taking ownership of the communication breakdown. Say, “I’m sorry I ditched you. I should have made it clearer how much this concert meant to me. I know you probably felt abandoned, so I understand if you want time before you can trust me again.” 

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