• Resolving Problems

The devastating effect of a pocket-dial on a friendship

Published: January 24, 2012 | Last Updated: January 6, 2016 By | 10 Replies Continue Reading
How do you handle overhearing something from a pocket-dial you weren’t intended to hear?


Dear Irene,

I recently listened to my cell phone messages, and unfortunately found a pocket-dialed call (DEFINITION: A pocket-dial, also called a butt-dial, is a call accidentally placed while a cellphone is in someone’s pocket or purse) that recorded a conversation between two of my closest friends. We had been out together that afternoon but they were traveling home in a car separate from me.

They talked about various things, but eventually they came to the topic of ME! The friend who I am closer with went on a complete 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 5 of us that are life-long 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 life long friendships. We travel together, we raised our kids together, we marched at each other’s weddings! Our parents and siblings are all so proud of this special group of 5 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 to 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 said the ‘basher’ cares about me, and would always be there in times of trouble. Is that enough? I need advice!

Signed, Bonnie


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. Hers was a sin of omission rather than commission. 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? 

Prior posts on The Friendship Blog about circles of friends:

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Comments (10)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Great reply…completely agree with everything you wrote!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Bonnie,

    I can certainly empathize with your pain in overhearing your friend’s harsh comments. I would feel quite devastated if this happened to me. In the past five years I’ve twice been in situations that could have been endings to friendships. In the first situation, I was the offending party and in the second situation I was the offended party. Both times, I thought long and hard about what I might do. I realized that if I were to do nothing, the friendships would be diminished. I realized I didn’t want diminished realtionships, I wanted full relationships. I couldn’t change what had happened, but I could respond to what had happened. I could respond with a loving heart. A loving heart does not ignore the hurt, it acknowledges the hurt. A loving heart speaks the truth… with gentleness and with compassion for all concerned. In both of my situations, I inititiated the tough conversation (and it was not easy). The outcome has been that both of these friendships are now stronger and more caring than they otherwise would have been. I look back upon these incidents as wonderful opportunities for enriching my life and the lives of people I care about.

    Bonnie, it takes courage to do what you need to do. I know you have the courage. And your friend needs you to be courageous. Your friend has a guilty concience and is in a bad spot. You are called to extend a hand of true friendship to help her out of it… with truth and gentleness.


    • marjorie wilson says:

      4 months ago this happened to me, my nephew and sister were having the conversation. I was devastated. At 65 years old who would have thought, such hurtful things were being said about my health. The family is torn, but I don’t think I could forgive. I’ve prayed on it, but don’t know should I just not deal with family, just my own children

  3. Anonymous says:

    This happens around my group of friends. When someone isn’t there we sometimes bad mouth them because of certain qualities they have or something we don’t like about them. I assume my friends do this when I’m not around either. I don’t care too much about it because I know they dont mean to hurt others. It’s just what we do. But we don’t say things in front of the person because we respect their life and how they want to live it. In the end we still keep together as a group with no problems.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi my take is that you need to evaluate why you place importance on what your friend thinks of your life. You have lived it and I am sure that each point in your friends attack – when the event occured – you managed the situation to the best of your ability at the time – and grew from each experience. And over your life you have learned to manage life events – we all have them – but ask your self – do you still flounce off to your bedroom and slam the door as you may have done when you where 16 (gosh i did) or do you have a necessary conversation – even if from time to time it is with yourself……. growth however small is still growth… and yes this is another moment in which you can choose to grow…. bless you friend and thank her for giving you another opportunity to learn . Love her for her faults (gossiping seems to one of them and not letting go another) … Hug her and kiss her and smile as you thank her … not for her indiscretion (that is her cross to bear) but for giving you another chance in this life to forgive and forget.

    Be brave girl..

  5. Liz says:

    I would suggest that you mention it to the both of them and tell them how hurt you are. They may or may not know already – but with a long time friendship it is worth it to discuss this. If you can’t bring it up (too upsetting, non cronfrontational, ??), then weigh the importance of what was said against what can be lost. I wrote to Irene a while back about a friend that would watch another woman basically attack me passive aggressively (eye rolling, sighs when I would talk, etc.) and she brought up some good points about the non-defending friend. When I told my friend how hurt/mad it made me and that I would no longer go out with them due to it, she sure did defend the attacker!!
    My point is that I could have known this “friend” was not any friend of mine years earlier. It was worth a try. I see her occasionally as we have mutual friends, but even the mutual friends refuse to have the attacker come as she has been awful to them in the past also.
    Sorry for this long post – hope that it makes some sense. I’d like to hear how it all works out, and sorry that you are hurt.

  6. Anonymous says:

    unfortunately I think this incident is a by-product of female group friendships. I would talk to the person (calling 3x in one day? She knows something is up) and allow her to apologize. It is not worth losing several friendships over this isolated, albeit hurtful, incident. It may open up an honest dialogue and bring you closer in time…

  7. Anonymous says:

    Your friend that accidentally called you knows what happened. She saw it on her phone. She is calling you to see if she can gather context clues from you to see if you heard the message and if you heard specifically what she said when she was bashing you. I used to have a friend that would check her phone before she went off on someone just to make sure it hadn’t accidentally called anyone who could then hear the vile thing she was saying. This has happened (on both ends) to a lot of people I know. It’s like Murphy’s Law or something……

    My brother in law was bashing a client of his and proceeded to call said client and connect him into the conversation all by accident. Talk about awkward!

    Then there’s me, I had thought I had hung up a phone call with a coworker when my husband (not me) started bashing the person I had just hung up with only it didn’t hang up and unfortunately she heard everything. It was weird for a little while but we are just fine now.

    I think when she calls you should take her call and just be open and honest with her about what you heard. Throwing away this friend is the last choice, I think your friendship can be mended and maybe this incident will cause a change in your friends behavior. Or she may just learn to be more sneaky next time. Who knows!

  8. Anonymous says:

    The one who butt-dialed does know that you were called, and might even know how long the call went on for. Just look at any phone (smart or dumb) and there’s a list of last called – usually with the time of the call and sometimes the length.

    That might be why she’s calling, to express her chagrin or apologize abjectly. Or to ask why you continued to eavesdrop once you realized what was going on.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I guess the content of the overheard conversation is to be considered. If it was malicious, I’d say forget it (although talking it out would still be a good approach). If it was trivial like “can’t believe she wore that stupid red dress again” then I’d overlook it. I know I’m simplifying things a bit but that would be my overall approach. Best wishes.

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