THE BLOG
01/30/2012 06:33 pm ET Updated Mar 30, 2012

Pocket Dials: Can They Destroy Lifelong Friendships?

How do you handle overhearing something from a pocket dial you weren't intended to hear?

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I recently listened to my cell phone messages, and one of them was a "pocket dial" that recorded a conversation between two of my closest friends (if you aren't familiar with the term, a pocket dial, also called a butt dial, is a call accidentally placed while a cell phone is in someone's pocket or purse). We had been out together that afternoon, but my friends were traveling home in a separate car and were apparently chatting as they drove.

They talked about various things, but eventually they came to the topic of ME! The friend who I am closer with launched into an attack about my entire life. The other friend listened and never came to my defense. We were not in a fight, she just went on a roll and said very hurtful things. I feel so hurt and upset because we have all been friends for over 40 years! There are five of us that are lifelong friends, and I really don't know if I will ever feel the same about the one who did all the bashing.

If I end the friendship, I will be spoiling a five-pack of long-established friendships I value highly. We travel together, we raised our kids together and we marched at each other's weddings. Our parents and siblings are all so proud of this special group of five life-long friends.

Since I heard the message two days ago I have not spoken to either of them. The one who did all the talking called me three times today and I couldn't answer because I was just too upset to get into it. They have no idea that I heard the conversation, but knowing what she thinks of me, how do I move forward?

Do I wait a week to talk to her when I'm not feeling so emotional? Do I try to ignore it, and never tell her what I heard? What's the solution? At this point I really don't know if I will ever feel the same. I confided in my best friend who understands how I feel, but she said the 'basher' cares about me and would always be there in times of trouble. Is that enough? I need advice!

Signed,

Bonnie

ANSWER

Dear Bonnie,

Gosh, this is a tough situation. I'm sure overhearing that conversation had to be very painful and has cast a dark shadow on what once was a special circle of friends. Even though this breach was an unintentional pocket dial, it had to undermine your trust -- not only in the friend who attacked you, but also in the one who didn't defend you and in the group as a whole.

Despite how you're feeling now, don't allow this incident to poison the friendship and long, shared history you have with this group. Speak with your attacker openly and tell her what you heard. If you don't, it will always be the elephant in the room between you. Ask her why she made such comments and how hurt you felt upon hearing them. It's likely she will apologize profusely and be very embarrassed.

My guess is there will always be some distance between you and her from here on in, but that you'll eventually feel comfortable enough to look beyond this incident. She'll probably bend over backwards to make it up to you.

I wouldn't necessarily be upset with the listener. She was placed in a difficult position and may not have felt comfortable defending you.

You are absolutely correct in taking some time to diffuse the anger because too much is at stake to react with haste. This circle of friends is important to you, so your primary goal should be to preserve the integrity of the group (by not bringing other people into this morass and making them choose sides) and to keep the other friendships you value.

Hope this helps.

Best,

Irene

Have you ever been a victim or perpetrator of a butt dial? Which is worse?

More on this Topic: Five Ways to Avoid Potentially Embarrassing Pocket Dials