Never the Right Word

Never the Right Word

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What to Say When You Catch Your Friend Stealing

How would you deal with a friend stealing from you? Having someone you once trusted steal take something of yours can leave you feeling betrayed, angry and violated. Getting your belongings back is fairly straight forward, but the breach of trust can make you seriously question your judgement skills and cause an abrupt end to your friendship.

Maybe you’ve caught a friend stealing from others and now your concerned about this person’s character. Should you confront them, and if so how? Read on because we’ve got some tips and tricks for you:

1 | Do You Have Enough Evidence or is It Just a Suspicion?

 

This is one of the toughest problems to deal with in friendship. Because not only do you run the risk of losing someone you considered a friend, but you also run the risk of having trust issues in the future. Because when someone steals from you they don’t just take something that is yours, they also take away a piece of you that will not be easy to replace.

Deciding on the most appropriate way to confront your friend depends on how much evidence you have against this friend. If you know without a shadow of a doubt that they stole from you, no matter how uncomfortable it is to handle, you do need to confront them.  Tell them “there is something I need to talk to you about and it is not easy for me to do this, but I have decided to tell you because I want you to know how deeply it hurt me and I never thought I would have this conversation with you because I consider you a good friend”.

Then explain what is missing and how you figured out it was them. It will be more difficult to have this conversation if you have a good feeling that they stole from you but not solid proof. In this case, it is better to go step by step and eliminate possibilities as you go. You can start the conversation by talking about the missing item, or money. Keep it factual and don’t mention you suspect them. If you mention you suspect them at this stage they will get defensive and it will lead to an unpleasant argument.

Remember, you want them to not be defensive, but defenseless instead. From the way they react, you might have a clearer picture as to whether or not they had anything to do with it. This may or may not lead you to a definitive answer, but it might scare them and make them think twice before they attempt to steal from you or anyone else in the future.

2 | You Have Evidence but You Are Afraid of Confronting

 

If you don’t know how to go about having this dreadful conversation, you can pull away and stop communicating with this person. Ignoring their messages and turning down their invites will become a burden for a while, hopefully, they will get the message fast enough and stop bothering you.

If they ask you what’s wrong and why you suddenly stopped talking to them you can find a million excuses from “I am really busy these days” to “I am not feeling good today”.  Most of the time we are afraid of confronting for various reasons. Maybe we have a little doubt and we hate to accuse someone falsely and we don’t feel comfortable enough to live with such guilt forever.

So we save ourselves the embarrassment in case we are wrong. Another reason why confronting is not easy is because we simply don’t have the strength to have this type of conversation. So we simply let it go and try to move on and be more careful with our choices in the future.

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3 | You Have Evidence and You Do Want to Confront

 

Honestly, it is the right thing to do no matter how hard and mean it looks and feels. There are two things to consider: was this a one-time incident or does your friend have a more serious problem that needs treatment? If this was a one-time incident you will have to decide how you want to proceed. Do you want to stay friends with this person or do you want to let them know that this action has serious consequences? At this point tell them you need to talk to them about something serious.

With calmness, put all the evidence in front of them in a way they won’t be able to find any excuses. Tell them how you became suspicious, how you figured out it was them. Be clear. Suppose you were invited to her house. And when you went there you had a golden ring in your purse. You went to the bathroom and left your purse in the living room. You did not interact with anyone else that day and you went straight home afterward.

The next morning when you opened your purse the ring was no longer there. Explain all of this calmly to your friend. They will know what you are trying to tell them even though they probably won’t admit it. Tell them how hard it is for you to have this talk with them but it is better to handle it now than never talk about it.

4 | What if They Apologize?

 

Thank you for being honest with me and admitting. However, I would like you to know that this hurt me a lot and I will need more time to trust you again, I hope you understand, but this is how I feel…

I feel terrible that we had to go through this. I wish this never happened. However, I hope you understand that things can’t be the same anymore. I don’t think I can trust you and I can’t be friends with someone if I can’t trust them.

Depending on the severity of the theft, you will decide if you still want to be friends with this person or not. If you choose to forgive, you should let them know that they have to pay it back to you. If the amount was big, you can arrange a payment plan. If the amount wasn’t big, you two can decide on a specific date for your friend to reimburse it to you. But they have to know that they can’t get away with it. If you want to accept their apology and give them another chance you should let them know that it will take time for you to trust them again.

You can say: “Thank you for being honest with me and admitting. However, I would like you to know that this hurt me a lot and I will need more time to trust you again, I hope you understand, but this is how I feel”. If you don’t want to give them another chance tell them that you still expect to be paid back and say: “I feel terrible that we had to go through this. I wish this never happened. However, I hope you understand that things can’t be the same anymore. I don’t think I can trust you and I can’t be friends with someone if I can’t trust them.”

No matter how hard it is to say these things, they need to be said. You will feel horrible and perhaps even guilty. But remind yourself that it is not your fault and this was the best decision. Give yourself time to heal and learn from this experience.

If you're looking to develop your communication skills for professional environments even further, we think you’ll like the following video course from LinkedIn Learning. Check out the preview below:

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At Never the Right Word, our aim is to give you practical examples of how to handle life’s difficult conversations. If you have an awkward situation that you’d like example templates for, request a topic here.   

If you’re interested in further reading, we’ve also included links to our trusted resources and related posts below. To find out more about NTRW and our recommended tools, you can do that here.  

Lastly, if you found this content helpful or want to share your own examples, let us know in the comments. We’d also be delighted if you shared this article and joined us on social media too!

Never the Right Word

Never the Right Word

Hi there! I’m Amy, and I’m the person behind Never the Right Word. I’m a designer-by-day who’s fascinated by human psychology; you’ll find me learning about what makes others tick through all types of media and good old-fashioned conversation.

In 2019 Never the Right Word was born to fill the gap of ‘how-to’ websites with copy and paste examples showing you EXACTLY what you need to say to steer difficult conversations into positive outcomes.

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