Dealing with Betrayal

Last week, I found out that someone I thought was a friend neglected to refer me for a consulting gig with another manager at her workplace. It would have been part time for about 12 weeks, and highly lucrative (probably $20,000 or so). Ramona knew I wanted — and could have used — the work, and that I am highly qualified. I might not have gotten the gig, but the fact that she didn’t refer me — and didn’t even tell me of the gig’s existence so I could apply, despite the fact that I had mentioned looking for exactly this sort of opportunity, really feels like a betrayal. A minor betrayal in the larger scheme of things, perhaps, but a betrayal, nonetheless.

To be fair, I had coached Ramona through difficulties with this particular manager in the past, and she probably just didn’t want to deal with the fallout from my interaction with him. Still…. she was acting in her own self-interest in a way that showed in how little regard she holds me.

Everything has its positive aspect, though: it got me to reflect on how to deal with a betrayal. Here are a few tips for how to act in the short run:

  • Be gracious – Keep your cool as you find out you have been betrayed — words once said can’t be unsaid, and in this day of electronic replication, may be sent far and wide, without context. You may not understand the whole picture at this point. Take the high road. Nothing good ever came of revenge.
  • Admit your feelings – Of course, you’re angry. You have every right to be — you were betrayed. Your trust and/or expectations were violated. Anger is normal in this situation, in fact, anger exists to alert you to violations. Talk to a trusted confidante, or write everything out in a journal. If your journal is in your computer, do NOT put it anywhere it could be accidentally sent out in an email. Don’t put it online. Again, in this day of electronic replication, what you write (or worse, damning excerpts) may be sent far and wide, without context.
  • Know that karma will take care of it – Know that people do get what they deserve — even if it isn’t in this lifetime. This is the concept of karma, a universal balancing out of energies. YOU  are not in charge of karma; the universe (or God, or Source, or whatever term you prefer) is.
  • Pay attention to your ROLE (Return on Life Energy) – Does it serve you best to focus on revenge? Or to focus on your own life? There’s an old saying that ‘living well is the best revenge’, so focus on what YOU are choosing to create in your own life. The betrayer may not be part of what you are choosing to create, or at least not in the ways you expected — and you should thank that person for showing you that. (Hat tip to Susan Bernstein for the concept of ROLE – to hear our discussion about this, click here and listen to the 3/30 show from about 10 minutes in.)
  • Ask yourself what you might have done to contribute to the situation – Did you excuse bad behavior in the past? Or willfully ignore what you already knew at some level? Was this a learning experience your soul wanted you to have? 

Here are some questions to help you decide what to do from here:

  • Was this a pattern of behavior or a one time thing? A spouse having a years-long affair is quite different from a ‘friend’ failing to disclose a job opportunity. If there is a pattern of betrayal, getting away is probably your best course of action. If it’s happened only once, though, perhaps the betrayer didn’t realize what she was doing, or perhaps he was in a situation where there were no good solutions.
  • Was this maliciously done to you, or were you simply collateral damage? Did the betrayer do this to hurt you intentionally, perhaps out of jealousy? Or was the betrayer just acting in self-interest, without thinking of you? If it was done maliciously, run in the other direction, as fast as you can. If you were the unintentional victim of self-interest, well, you know where you stand going forward. Act accordingly. 
  • Has the person apologized? Accepted responsibility? Offered to make amends? And to avoid this behavior in the future? All of these things are necessary to repair a relationship, and they will mostly likely take time and effort.
  • How valuable is this relationship to you? Is this someone who used to hang out with because it was convenient, and that was the extent of the relationship? You can let that one go easily. Or was this someone you trusted with your inner life, a close confidant? Or something in between? Are there parts of your relationship you can save?

 So here’s what happened with Ramona: I was gracious –  I listened to her tell me what happened (she was at a point where she knew I’d soon find out, and was mature enough to step up at that point and tell the truth). I kept my cool, saying very little as she told me. I do know that she and her colleague will get everything they deserve, good and bad, and so I am moving on. I spent a few painful hours grokking what had happened — and then I started to write this. That feels much better than wallowing in self-pity and anger. I did also look at what parts of my Self might have created this situation.

Here’s how I assess the situation going forward: What happened was a one time thing, and I was collateral damage to her own career aspirations. I know where I stand, and I’m grateful for that clarity. Ramona neither apologized (or maybe I was too upset to hear it), accepted responsibility, offered to make amends nor to avoid this behavior in the future.

I value her talents and insights, as I still believe she values mine. That is definitely the basis for a limited relationship, one where we give each other professional advice. It is probably not the basis for a true friendship, but who knows? Life paths have many twists and turns, and our paths may grow closer in the future.

Hollis Polk is a personal coach (, who has been helping people create lives they love for 15 years, using neurolinguistic & hypnotherapy techniques, decision science, clairvoyance & the common sense learned in 20+ years of business. She is an NLP Master Practitioner, hypnotherapist & has a BSE in engineering from Princeton & a Harvard MBA. She is also a successful real estate broker, investor & business owner.