My goal is to help you create a lifestyle of positivity and possibility. I am smiling!

– Warmly, Honey

Why Women Bully Friends

Why Women Bully Friends

When I write about my husband, Sheldon Good, I typically mention he is my best friend. He’s also my best girlfriend. While it may sound strange to call my very masculine husband my best girlfriend, I think I am savvy to realize and appreciate this gift. Sharing is caring and whether I am over the top elated or a little blue, he always has my best interests at heart. He is my sounding board and my comfort.

A few days ago he looked up from his newspaper and asked, “What are you writing about today?” I replied, “Women who bully other women.”

While most men would go back to reading their paper, not my husband. He is a kibitzer and loves to give me advice. He quipped, “Don’t forget to tell your gals people throw stones at fruit-bearing trees.” I smiled.

Girlfriends are a great source of joy in our lives. Most women are compassionate and have the desire to support and nurture one another… yours truly included. The female experience is a sisterhood because no one understands us better than us.

So what do you do when your emotional radar picks up on an unpleasant personality shift in a close friend? Out of nowhere, you are caught off guard when your girlfriend’s behavior takes on a bullying pattern and she becomes mean-spirited.

Your Choices & What I’ve Learned

You have two choices. You can either disassociate yourself from this woman because you don’t want to deal with the toxic behavior, or you can try and resolve this attitude change.

If you decide to stay in the relationship, it is important to understand the personality of an aggressive woman who uses bullying tactics. Here’s what I know and what I’ve learned about women who bully others:

1.     Many women believe they would never bully a friend. Nothing could be further from the truth writes Cheryl Dellasega, author of Mean Girls Grow Up, and a women’s studies professor at Pennsylvania State University. She writes, “The adult aggressor even gets a little more polished and subtle as they get older.” Their goal? Power over you.

2.     Then there are women who feel invisible and choose to build themselves up by knocking others down. They will gossip and exclude you in order to demean you, especially if they know they can get away with it. Their issue? Insecurity.

3.     Remember, women do not use their fists, they use their mouths. Women are very verbal and verbal aggression is the quickest way to hurt you. Their plan of attack? Talking badly about you to others.

4.     “Female friendships are one of the greatest comforts and the greatest weapons,” writes Rachel Simmons, author of The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. What’s one of the greatest causes of bullying?The bully is jealous.

Power, jealousy, aggression, and insecurity make a bully.

A Feminine Woman is Often the Victim

I think bullies attack women who radiate femininity. A truly feminine woman is loving. She embraces life, exudes warmth and her beauty shines from the inside out. She is a life force and this makes our bully friend feel threatened.

So, my dear readers, you have a choice: you can help your friend to feel more confident, and hopefully, this will bring out a different side to her. However, more often than not, these types of women don’t want to change.

I’ll give you an example from my own life. I thought I had a close friend. We laughed, shared stories and dined as couples. I loved to be in her company. Then, she began to threaten me, insult me, and made up lies. She even created a negative pet name for me. “How could this be?” I asked myself. “Why is my friend changing?”

One day, after this behavior had continued for a month, I was sitting on my window sill on a gorgeous day looking out at Lake Michigan, when I suddenly began to softly cry. My husband heard me, sat down next to me and asked, “Why are you crying?” I told him about this woman and he asked, “What are you going to do?”

I thought about my role in our relationship. Did I deserve her unkind, aggressive behavior? The answer was an immediate… no! I decided to terminate the friendship. My half-full cup was emptying swiftly and my life on the happy side of the street was being affected.

As I mentioned above, it is up to you to decide if you can help your so-called friend ‘see the light.’ Each situation must be judged on its own merit.

My advice: Don’t let the situation go on any longer than it should. Don’t allow these types of women to disrespect you. Stand your ground, rather than shy away. Live on the happy side of the street with girlfriends who love you.

Have You Ever Shared in This Experience?

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30 Comments
  1. Thanks for such a great article and perfect timing for me, as it has just validated what i about to do, which is to divorce a couple of so called friends out of my life. Being over 50 can be a hard enough challenge so we need the best support team not the toxins who will yo-yo in and out of your life when it suits them.

    1. Right on girl! Go to it. I applaud your decision. You will feel emotionally powerful that you were able to say, Enough is enough to yourself and then act upon your thoughts. Warmly, Honey

  2. Thought your column focused on female bully friends and acquaintances, I think the worst is a bully female boss. I worked for one for about 18 months. We could tell how the day would go by how the door slammed as she arrived. When I first took the job she trash talked my predecessor. I could find no files, maybe 50 cards in the Rolodex (yeah, that thing), I thought my predecessor was an idiot. I found out she was a detailed person with an MA and that the boss had trashed all my predecessor’s records and files before I arrived. Then my mother died, then my dad died a few months later. While I was away for Dad’s funeral with laptop in hand, I didn’t order the “right” food that the boss wanted in the company’s skybox at our sports arena where she planned to entertain her school age children and their pals. I prayed for time off to deal with the grief. I got it when she fired me 4 months later for some other infraction. I had been with that firm 15 years and worked exclusively for corporate officers including the president. She got hers a few years later when she gave dishonest guidance to her investment bankers which eventually took that Fortune 100 company down in flames.

    Lesson learned: There is a lot to be said for mental health. Toxic environments are not worth your mental or physical health.

    1. There are usually consequences for bad behavior. She deserved hers. Unfortunately, you took the brunt of her bullying. I am so sorry. Warmly, Honey

  3. Hello
    Had tears in my eyes reading your post today . I have just left a 15 year workplace and believe I was bullied out exactly as you say , I’m feminine love and am interested in all people clients work mates and believe a female colleague became jealous and slowly infected a manager using a vulnerable young staff member along the way . I believe it’s indemic and we need training in learning to recognise and shut this behaviour down in our workplaces and personal lives . Thanks for the post and relative links for further information.

    1. It is my pleasure. I am so sorry you experienced this type of behavior. So have I so I know how you are feeling. Have you joined the Sisterhood at Honeygood.com? Please do if you care to. Just go to my site and follow the prompts. We are going to have many discussions on this type of behavior and how to avoid and stand up. Warmly, Honey

  4. Perfect message. My sweet husband and I moved five years ago and I have encountered this behavior in a couple of women. It has been my decision to distance myself from this type of person as I navigate this journey of making new friends. Our neighborhood is all new homes and everyone navigating this adventure of making new friends. I have noticed most people just want a friend they don’t care that a person is a valueless bully. I want friends who share my values and are kind and caring people. Your message helps me know I am on a good journey for me. I still am interested in the sisterhood and focus groups. The Lake Norman area of Charlotte NC is my new life. Come for a visit.

    1. My motto: Let your friends mirror you. You do not mirror them. Love that you want to start a focus group. And, join the Sisterhood. You can join the Sisterhood now by going to my site, honeygood.com and signing up. There is a form. Maybe I will come and see you, one day. You may be one of our darlings to start a focus group. How fun and fascinating and helpful they are. Warmly, Honey

  5. My middle daughter had been bullied really badly in school, it began in 7th grade, now she is a 30+ beautiful young woman and yet still is bullied somewhat. She gets talked about behind her back and in Facebook. She basically has let go of most relationships and I hate it for her but even though I know it bothers her somewhat she is such a strong woman and very busy with her family, traveling and career but neither of my other daughters ever had this problem nor have I. I wasn’t the most popular in school, not a ton of friends but now I still don’t have tons of close friends but the ones I do have are incredibly loyal and we have a sister type friendship. But last year while living in a different city ( I have recently moved back to my home town. ) I met a woman, I liked her very much, we had so much fun, swimming, riding bikes, visiting thrift stores and boutiques and lunches. So forth, then when I was out of town a couple months later she met a woman and then we all did some things together, including going to listen to live music at a little club and going to the beach and swimming. But after several weeks the second woman began to ( because of my political beliefs which just kinda came out began to ridicule me, and so I did not say anything but several weeks later I accidentally ( not thinking) just mentioned something political and she begins to scream and yell. We were in a little antique area of town. Going into lovely boutiques and having a lovely picnic lunch on a really beautiful day. So she is yelling at the top of her lungs, people of course were all around, it upset me so much. The whole weekend I was just really upset. I’m not sure if this is considered bullying but to me just because you think politically different from someone doesn’t give them this right because I felt she was yelling and criticizing me also. We went out a few more times but then she got sick and was in the hospital and I reached out to her. Then I got really sick for several weeks. And I was very sick so I did not talk to either of them, then I ran into her in Walmart one day she did ask how I was I told her I’d been very sick but finally felt better just in past few days and that was true. She cut me off didn’t seemed concerned or interested. That was 3 months ago and I literally moved as of three weeks ago. It’s like God gave me Titus 3:9, and I prayed and thought about it and then he gave me the verse. And I decided to end my relationship with them, and I have not heard from either anymore. There were some other little things but with all of it put together I felt like God was telling me to sever my tights. I’ve wondered if I was right or wrong but now I feel I made the right decision and they probably don’t even realize I’m not living there any longer. I hate it but I’m blessed with my friends here, and who knows maybe one day we will meet again and at least be able to talk and catch up but if not it’s ok too….

    1. Dear Lulu: If it is your daughter remember this: There are consequences for unkind actions. I would tell her that and be strong in a soft voice. I would tell her if she does not stop bullying you for what ever reason (you are her mother) you will learn to accept what she cannot seem to change and stay out of her reach. Tough love. Warmly, Honey

  6. This article comforted me so much. I am currently in a social situation where envy began brewing in one little girl’s heart toward my daughter. She infected my daughter’s friend group, and the mothers ganged up on me as well. My daughter started college at 15 and is an accomplished musician, but has always been humble about her accomplishments. It is therapeutic just knowing the group banishment of us was probably borne out of their own insecurities. I believe primates also behave this way when they feel threatened by a more capable primate. Thank you for this post. The head game can be daunting, but one has to learn to go it alone and pray for friends that will sharpen us, challenge us, and most of all love us. Also, some women really never do grow up.

    1. I firmly believe that everyone woman should be with women who ‘mirror’ their values, who are like them. Then there is a comfort level, a mutual trust that allows a friendship to develop. And, of course they should sharpen us. Warmly, Honey

      .

  7. Thank you for your post.
    I recently had the experience of a woman, 25 years my junior take credit for a report that I literally spent hundreds of hours on at work. I was stunned, although I don’t know why I would be, this is exactly the behavior I’ve experienced from women over and over. I did confront her but she was snippy and denied it. I’m thinking about leaving the agency. The only reason I’m currently staying is because I’m trying to monitor her and make sure she doesn’t continue to credit herself with my work; which I’m convinced she’ll do after I leave.
    It was very validating to read your article and to understand that this is a cultural thing and that lots of women experience this. It doesn’t make it right but it helps me to not feel quite so isolated and attacked.

    1. If you are very unhappy at your agency why don’t you look around for another place to ‘hang your work and be validated?’ Why spend negative time watching over her shoulder. She is not going to change. Put your time into positive actions that will fulfill you. I am not aware of how your company handles problems but my reward would be to leave a documented report, not hateful, of her actions to the higher up that will do something about this the day I spread my wings and found fulfillment somewhere else. Just something to think about.Warmly, Honey

  8. Loved your article, especially re those bullied exude femininity. I had a similar situation where someone who I thought to be a friend turned mean and ran me out of her “club”. She then told other member I didn’t want phone calls and spread untruths painting me in a negative light. Thank goodness other caring members reached out in the midst of this and she was “busted”. Who knows why insecure bullies are threatened but it is sad and really not very attractive.

    1. A friend just mentioned a book she read about bullies.When women reached 70 it gets worse!!!! You were fortunate to have good friends to rally around you. Often women stay silent. Happy for you. Warmly, Honey

  9. For almost a week I have been bewildered by the bullying I experienced from a friend (or so I’d thought) and a ‘new’ friend of hers. It started like a junior high hormone bomb when they noticed a good looking young man come into the pub we were in. Totally uncalled for, they literally shoved me out of the way. ? I wasn’t IN THEIR WAY. When the ‘new girl’ picked up my scarf and threw it some feet away with a gleeful look, I wanted to slap her, but picked up my scarf, faced her directly and said, “Keep your hands off my belongings.” At that point the young man quietly asked if he was sitting on my barstool. You could almost see the steam coming from the “ladies’ ” ears. Disappointed, upset – I paid my bill and left smiling. Still, it’s upsetting.

    1. Hi, I think I overlooked by accident your comment on Bullying friends. I am so sorry. I will have an answer for you next Thursday, March 12 on my blog for the day, ASK HONEY. I will not use your name. Warmly, Honey

  10. Wow! I am so grateful to find this article today. I’ve spent alot of my life having close best “frenemies” since I was a teen. Female relationships have been a very difficult for me most of my life, in part due to my traumas as a teen with my first BFF, and the second…I currently am living with someone I have known since I was 8 years old, her and I never were friends growing up, so it seemed fun to get to know her in my late 30’s. Except that I’ve been experiencing this sort of behavior for the past 6 months. It started slight, then more obvious, to now- we aren’t talking because I called her out on being passive aggressive. I know my tendencies as an empathetic person are to soften to her, play small, people please. I realize now that is a huge default of mine, and probably what make me such an easy target for these power hungry, insecure women. I’m always so amazed and appalled when I finally realize it. I don’t think I’m looking for these women, but I find myself here again. I appreciate your article, I’m going to check out the rest of your page now 🙂

    1. I thought I answered you but it says I did not, so I am not sure. I think empathy is a wonderful trait. It is a strength and not a weakness to reach out to others and be kind hearted. Be empathetic because you want to be; not to be a people pleaser. Don’t be a people pleaser. Please yourself and you will feel your power. Just do it! It is not being selfish. It is being smart. Warmly, Honey

  11. I feel that this statement is a romantic myth and a part of the problem: “Most women are compassionate and have the desire to support and nurture one another”. Why do women get away with being innocent all the time? My mother believes herself to be a good person BECAUSE SHE IS A MOM and I could say the same thing happened to so many of my friends when they had kids. My old friend randomly married this woman and had a kid and now she gets away with all kinds of condescending comments. Her femaleness & Mommy image are the perfect smokescreen! No one is going to mess with her because she is the gatekeeper to our friend and his kids. I’m sure she bullied me in the past out of insecurity just like my mother and older sister do to all the women in our family that don’t bow down to them. I have grown much more confident lately and have realized how pathetic bullies are and that I don’t need to assimilate into their sexist harem of fake friends. They’re potted plants I like to say, potted plants that are terrified of being their own people and who are afraid of not being popular as if adult life were just as sad as high school.

    Some women never grow up and they spend their entire lives tap dancing for their archaic mothers. They don’t like women who have their own minds and don’t need the mob. They’re afraid to live so they hobble themselves by hanging out with other scaredy-cat women who would never dare break the rules. Bully women are goodie two shoeses with a philosophy straight out of the 50s. They may look like hipsters but inside they are desperate to fit in with powerful men. Good thing men prefer nonconformist women, however this may account for female bullies choices of targets. They envy women who don’t need the approval of other women.
    I always found that male friends were way less self hating than female friends. So many women are like “closet cases”. They want everyone to like them so they’re afraid to be anything that would be considered taboo by their peers. They can’t choose who they get to be because to fit into society today a woman has to get married and have a baby. Having a baby is the ultimate hobbling tool and this is why mothers pressure their daughters so much to do it. My mother always discouraged me from being a tomboy. I never understood it until I saw my friend’s Moms harassing them about having kids. Why would you force that on your daughter and then convince her it was her own idea? No one chose to have a baby in the past they chose to have sex and a baby was the side effect. You can choose to have a baby and be non threatening to all the women around you or you can choose to be childless and be looked at like a failure. Success is motherhood; careers are considered gravy. Find me an enmeshed daughter with a mother who didn’t hammer that point home.

    1. A bully is a person who picks on another woman who she think is weak. They bully is really the weak one. She does this to self-elevate herself. A strong woman of character helps her weaker sister. Be true to yourself not to others. You will be admired. Warmly, Honey

    2. Please let me know if I did not answer you. I think I have…twice. But I am not 100% certain. Awaiting your reply. Warmly, Honey (not a people pleaser!)

  12. Jen, what a wonderful comment. I have experienced so many of the same issues in my life. I feel validated after reading the article and your comment. I really needed this today. Thank you.

    1. So glad you feel better. Choose friends who mirror YOU, your values, your character, your beliefs, etc.. Then you will be happy. Warmly, Honey

  13. This was a perfect article to read today. A few months ago, we invited 3 couples to come to our timeshare. This was the 8th year 2 of the couples were coming with us. Let me admit that I was down. My father had passed, and I was going to the funeral when we got home. I am a one year cancer survivor, so it’s been a really hard year. The last night, the other girls all wore matching outfits! I’ve known them for 10-20 years! One had asked if I thought she could dress really casually for fine dining. I said that I wouldn’t, but she could wear whatever she wanted (our only night of fine dining). I was crushed, a few days after we got home, I was excluded from a birthday trip to a concert! When confronted them, they claim to be shocked that I was offended. “They love me, and would never hurt my feelings”. Seriously? Mean girls are growing up to be mean old women. Hurting other women for power in the group!

    1. There was one additional couple invited, right? Who is this third girl? And, were the girls who excluded you the same three girls who you invited to your timeshare? Yes, it was very very mean spirited to leave you out. Concerning what to wear: you were not controlling, You wore what you wanted to wear and told them to wear whatever they wished. I am just wondering if the third girl is the trouble maker? You have had a hard year with Cancer and loss. If any of these three friends do not have empathy to be extra sensitive and caring, consider deleting them from your life and look for women friends who mirror you. Warmly, Honey

  14. I was just sent this by someone who has been belittling, me, talking about me to others, belittle and talking about vulnerable people we know or other nationalities in ways I found unacceptable and did call her out on it….I could go on but……..In my mind the person is continuing on her controlling bullying behavior towards me, One day it finally came to a head and I very loudly swore at her to shut the f…up in front of others who had said at one time or another…… why are you still friends with her and had warned me about her. I try to make my own opinions……I recognized that she had pushed to far with what she said this time and it had brought out a behavior that I do not like in myself. I did later apologize for swearing at her and said I should have talked to her about how I was feeling in private ……..and tried at different times since then as I thought she respected what I brought to the friendship and in some ways I thought we had a good friendship……
    this post turned up in my messenger with no explanation , no discussion and in my mind with how it has been sent she is continuing passively with trying to control me. I had shared at different time with her what I had been through (and she shared her story as well), why I am slow to trust people and make friends and why I had/have isolated myself and because of her past profession and what I thought was friendship shared what hard work I’ve done to get to the point of trusting again and in one sense she knows how to hurt me…….I will not respond to her at all now only with politeness when in the same circle but will keep my distance as what I have learned is that to continue on a discussions with bullies is no good either ……

    1. Zee, a bully bullies only as long as they are ‘allowed to’ by the other person, in this instance, you. You are right…you certainly do not want this type of woman in your life. She is not bringing anything positive to the relationship. So, back away slowly and seek out kind women. They are out there.Remember this, a bully is an insecure person. Feel sorry for her and happy for yourself that you are a good person and move on. Warmly, Honey

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