How to Confront a Friend Who Stole From Me

Don't beat around the bush during confrontation.
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Perhaps your favorite lipstick is missing, your hoodie isn’t where you left it, or some money is gone. Thinking that your friend stole from you is a terrible predicament to find yourself in, and confronting her can be tricky. As nerve-wracking and uncomfortable as it can be, confrontation is sometimes necessary.

1 Be Prepared

Prior to confronting your friend, take time and collect your thoughts. To prevent yourself from saying something that you may later regret, it can be helpful to map out what you’d like to say in advance, says Nathan Feiles, a psychotherapist and author of “Confronting Friends: Part One” on the "Psych Central" website. Making an outline of the key points you'd like to discuss may be beneficial. It’s also important to go into the conversation knowing what you want to gain from the confrontation, Feiles says. For instance, you may want your friend to acknowledge that she stole from you, apologize and continue your friendship. On the other hand, you could want whatever she stole back and an end to the friendship.

2 Initiating the Conversation

It’s important that you confront your friend at an appropriate place and time. A confrontation about her stealing should be done privately, away from listening ears. Don't confront him at school. However, you can calmly approach him and set up a time to talk. For instance, you might say, “There’s something important that I need to talk to you about. When’s a good time for you?” Pick a place where you can comfortably talk without distraction.

3 Your Approach

Be careful to avoid going into the conversation pointing blame. Try to be compassionate and don’t assume that her actions were intentional, suggests Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and author of “Stay Right When You’re Wronged” on "The Huffington Post" website. When confronting her, it’s important to speak using “I” statements to express your thoughts and feelings about the situation, says Feiles. For example, you might say, “I felt betrayed when I found out that you stole from me,” rather than, “You betrayed me when you stole from me.” Using "I" statements can make your friend feel less defensive and more open to communication. Speak calmly, and be genuine, honest and open with her.

4 Set Boundaries for Yourself

It’s important that you establish boundaries with your friend, if you wish to continue your friendship. Setting boundaries shows respect for yourself and can help to protect your well-being, says Karen Kleiman, a psychotherapist and author of “10 Tips for Setting Boundaries and Feeling Better” on the "Psychology Today" website. When you set boundaries, you are telling your friend that you won’t tolerate being treated a certain way. For instance, you might say, “Stealing from me is not OK, and if it happens again, I won’t be your friend.” Be specific when setting your boundaries and make sure that you mean what you say.

Stacey Elkins is a writer based in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a Masters in social work from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she specialized in mental health.