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You Asked: I Upset Her, So Now What?

Dear Sugar,

It's been two weeks since my college friend, who became a co-worker, has been giving me the cold shoulder. I've asked her if anything was wrong or if I had offended her in some way but she just ignores me. I asked her to coffee, to lunch, and to go for a walk so we could talk, but she turns me down each time.
I just found out through a girl at work why she's upset: she was offended when I made a comment about her buck teeth during lunch one day. I said, "I never noticed this before but you have buck teeth! It's cute! My sisters have them, too. It's like Kate Hudson." I didn't mean to hurt her feelings; she just went on with the conversation so I didn't know that I had. I've tried to apologize several times but as it turns out, she's been talking about me behind my back. What should I do? — At a Loss Annie

To see DearSugar's answer

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Dear At a Loss Annie,

Although I know you were just stating an observation, try to put yourself in your friend's shoes for a moment. It was an undercutting compliment and I don't blame her for having hurt feelings. With that said, since you were unaware of how upset you made her feel, I don't blame you for not apologizing sooner or smoothing things over right after the comment came out of your mouth.

We all react to uncomfortable situations differently and it sounds to me like your friend is trying to avoid confrontation at all costs. Instead of hearing you out and letting you apologize, she's trying to make you feel as badly as she does. Though talking about you behind your back isn't the most mature approach, it's clear that she's chosen the passive-aggressive route instead of facing this head on. Since she's ignoring your attempts, I'd send her an apologetic email. Tell her that if you had known that your words hurt her as much as they did, you would have made an effort to apologize sooner or try to make it up to her. Explain that you've been trying to get face time with her to work everything out and that you feel terrible for what you did. Say you're sorry however many times you need to and then wait for her to come to you. I'm sure she's more embarrassed than hurt at this point so be prepared for her to need time before forgiving your mistake.

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JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 7 years
I would leave a card on her desk with an apology in it. Whatever you do don't make excuses for your behavior or try and say that you weren't trying to offend her. Just tell her that you are sorry for what you said (I wouldn't even repeat what that was) and that you understand why she's upset (even if you don't.) It's much more personal than an email and she will see that you actually took some effort.
tinyspark tinyspark 7 years
Wow. My friends don't say things like that to me. I'm just sayin'...
theCatsPajamas theCatsPajamas 7 years
if you really didn't know that it would hurt her feelings, and you want to salvage this friendship, then you should def take dear's advice. send a grovelling email that makes it clear how stupid you were for not realizing how offensive your comment was, then let it the whole thing lie. the more you badger her, the more she's gonna pull away. by the way, i think your unibrow is adorable! like that cute muppet! what's his name? friends with ernie? oh right, bert. he's SO cute! what? i'm kidding!
ilanac13 ilanac13 7 years
comments like that can definitely be taken the wrong way and i'm the queen of getting offended by stuff like that so i know how your friend feels. i think that since you know why she's upset you can approach her about it and let her know that you really didn't mean to be offensive and that you value your friendship and all that. i think that if you make the effort and let her know that you weren't trying to make her feel bad about her teeth - you'll be able to get back on track with her.
jotyler jotyler 7 years
This is such typical passive-aggressive chick bull****. Maybe next time you can point out how 'cute' her cellulite is, or maybe how 'cute' that pimple on her forehead is, or - better yet - she can do the same to you. You didn't know that pointing out her buck teeth would upset her? Yeah, right. Buck teeth have such a positive reputation in our pearly white-obsessed culture. And you didn't notice her teeth before, despite knowing her in college? Do what CaterpillarGirl said - tell her the real reason you need to point out other people's flaws. Women know every single flaw on their faces and bodies. We know. We don't need other women to point them out to us. And when other women do point them out, it's because they're insecure and nasty and trying to insult us without having the guts to be upfront about it. You need to grow up. You know what you did, and why you did it. This chick has your number and she is - quite correctly - staying away. Good luck to her. She doesn't need a 'friend' like you.
Mykie7 Mykie7 7 years
I've learned not to point out "Oddities" on my friends unless THEY bring them up first. I do think though that after you apologized to her that should have been that. Her talking behind your back is RUDE! A comment was made to me once "I've never met a pretty red-head, but as red-heads go, you're not bad." What a crappy comment right? It stuck with me forever. I just talked the person that said it last week and she didn't even remember saying it. The thing we all need to remember is that was stands out in OUR minds as important and hurtful was probably just a passing comment. However, if you're bugged or it pi**ed you off TALK TO THE PERSON. Being an immature child and saying nothing will get you nowhere and COULD ruin a friendship over a misunderstanding.
quietriott quietriott 7 years
ugh i hate this about girls - i have "friends" that will say things like "oh its so great you have the confidence to wear your hair short and not be worried people think you look like a boy" or "i love your skirt, i would usually only think people who are really skinny could wear something like that." (yes these are real comments). they were the type of people that would go out of the way to "tease" me, point out every flaw, and generally just belittle me in front of other people in some twisted way to make themselves seem superior. your friend is probably doing exactly what i do now to those "friends" - dropping you. and yeah, maybe its not fair and she should be a bigger person and forgive you, but the reality is that as girls we have enough of our own insecurities and enough other people being catty to us that we don't need our "friends" doing it too. negativity (even if unintentional) isn't something that is particularly desirable in a friendship, and a really easy way to lose friends. so try apologizing once more and being sincere about it, but then back off. she'll come around if she values your friendship enough to overlook what you did, but don't be entirely surprised if she moves on to friends who make her feel good about herself, rather than pointing out her flaws in front of a group of people.
omilawd omilawd 7 years
I would be mad if I were your friend too, to be honest. I'm sure she already knew she had buck teeth, and judging by her reaction, she hates them, whether you think they're "cute" or not. And, as adults, the word "cute" carries a negative, condescending connotation to most people. Just think about what you say from now on, because it doesn't matter how you meant it; what matters is how the other person PERCEIVES it. ALWAYS.
Kristinh1012 Kristinh1012 7 years
This is a perfect example of why people should learn to keep comments to themselves. Are you one of those people who constantly lets people know how tired they look. Or asks people if they are OK, because they don't looks so good today? I hate that Sh*t. I'm sure she was well aware of the fact that she has buck teeth and I'm sure it's probably one of things she most wants others NOT to notice. Don't you think she owns a mirror? I know it was innocent on your end, but seriously what if she was like, wow, never realized how big your A** is, it's really cute.............Yeah thanks for noticing, even better, thanks for pointing it out to me as if I don't know. Just let her be for now. I'm sure she'll get over it. But maybe you should sit and think about the things you say. Maybe this wasn't the first time that you insulted her and you just don't realize it.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 7 years
wow what a great friend you are, you insult her and didnt even realize it...and that wasnt a whoops insult, that was plain mean and probably made yourself feel better. The only way to mend this is to tell her you have bad self esteem and feel the need to point out others flaws to make your own look less. its the truth right?
seraphimm seraphimm 7 years
I've been on both ends of this problem. Once I said to a friend "I love how slim your waist is... take my love handles!" STFU was what she said... How the hell could I have known that she hated her size 0 waist?!!?!! jeebus. Next day. My bf says "I love your rabbit teeth. When you smile you look like a bunny!" WTF? was what I said. I HATE my crooked teeth. It took him like the whole day to keep apologizing and reminding me that he GENUINELY thought that my teeth were "cute". WHICH I FOUND SARCASTIC AND CONDESCENDING (esp. because he has perfectly straight teeth). and then I realized... people are always self-conscious about their appearances, no matter how confident they are or may seem. DUH, buck teeth are considered embarrassing and dumb-looking. Honestly, most people won't find them "cute" like you (or my bf) do. The important thing is you don't know if your friend had a bad experience as a child and hated her teeth. "Say you're sorry however many times you need to and then wait for her to come to you. I'm sure she's more embarrassed than hurt at this point so be prepared for her to need time before forgiving your mistake." Dear's advice is right-on. Hopefully she'll come to you afterwards and just drop everything... or even better, explain how she felt and why she was so upset. Good luck!! I feel for you!
nikki-12338078 nikki-12338078 7 years
You shouldn't have made the comment, but you did try to apologize and talk several time. Let her approach you now.
Liz4aker Liz4aker 7 years
I understand why the friend was upset. Pointing out a physical flaw...even if you said it was "cute"... in front of other people is embarrassing. Give her sometime and then give her a true apology. One where you don't try to explain away why you did what you did, but focuses on how truly sorry you are. If she doesn't accept it, then she is being petty. Realize your friendship wasn't that close to begin with.
Muirnea Muirnea 7 years
Hmmm, maybe the friend thought the comment was meant to be mean in a passive aggressive way, whether the OP meant it that way or not. That would explain why she is acting SO upset over such a small thing.
Muirnea Muirnea 7 years
I totally agree with you Eilonwy that that could easily happen. But if that was the case I don't think the poster would have asked for any advice, because she would have known she meant the comment in a mean way, and then she would have understood why the friend took it in a mean way and wouldn't need any advice. If she was seeking to insult or hurt the friend why would she then ask us for advice on how to make it better.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
OP, I think your comment was innocent. Also, judging by how apologetic you are, I think you meant no hostility. You said this was a college friend. I presume she didn't know you well, as she misread you? You apologized several times, and she's unwilling to reconcile with you. Leave her alone. Obviously, she wants nothing to do with you. Also, it seems you two are unsuitable as friends.
Eilonwy Eilonwy 7 years
*two...sigh...
Eilonwy Eilonwy 7 years
I totally get your point Muirnea, but I do want to point out that myself and the other posters don't know the true tone of Annie's use of the word 'cute.' Women, if seeking to insult or if being insensitive, are often passive aggressively so - cute could easily have been send in a condescending, patronizing or biting manner. Of course, like the above to posters pointed out, it could have been said in a neutral way too...
Muirnea Muirnea 7 years
I agree with dear's advice, send an email and then wait for her to initiate contact. I don't think what you said was a very big deal, I mean you obviously meant it as a complement, you said it's cute! It would be different if you just stated the fact, like "oh you have buck teeth", then it could easily be seen as an insult. She obviously didn't take it as a complement, but as soon as you realized she was hurt, you tried to apologize and make her feel better. I think she is taking it a little to seriously. And really, I don't think I would want to be friends with a person that goes and talks about me behind my back just because she took something I meant as a compliment in a bad way. She needs to get a little more self esteem and not worry about her appearance so much. But I think you have done all that you can if you send the email, and then just leave her alone.
RockAndRepublic RockAndRepublic 7 years
I think it's a fairly innocuous comment. Nothing that anyone should skip a heart beat over. Stop apologizing, if she has an issue with you, she should take it up with you.
Eilonwy Eilonwy 7 years
*coming to the fore...sorry :P
Eilonwy Eilonwy 7 years
at a loss annie - I know that you are expressing your complete lack of intentions in hurting your friend. And you very well may have meant no harm. Perhaps. (Although your supposed cluelessness strikes me as slightly disingenuous. You are an adult, after all...) But speaking as a *very* sensitive person, I just cannot fathom why anyone would comment on someone's personal appearance, especially an attribute that is perceived as undesirable (one that essentially fuels the multi-million industry that is orthodontia, such is the embarrassment!). I'm not trying to lecture you - only to warn you in practical terms that everyone has different levels of sensitivity, and one should always assume that others may not be as impervious to insults as oneself. Lastly, on a more broad note, sometimes friendships are meant to dissolve or to be not as close or intimate based on the individuals involved and their respective levels of sensitivity. Humor, laughing and positivity are key components to friendship, and quite frankly, perhaps you two may find to be less compatible, now that you both work together, in that your ideas of kindness, appropriateness and sensitivity are clearly different and coming to fore as your professional careers now overlap.
sassy_chick sassy_chick 7 years
Wow! Someone made fun of my buck teeth in fourth grade before I had braces and I still remember every detail of that moment. I don't think you should be forgiven and I don't blame her one bit for being hurt.
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