March 4, 2020


Hey Nikki, 

I’ve done something HORRIBLE!!! I broke my friend’s cell phone! Of course it was an accident, and she says it’s okay but it REALLY ISN’T! I feel SOOO bad!!! It was a really expensive phone and she didn’t have her photos backed up and she probably lost a lot of things! I really don’t know how to make it up to her and her phone is beyond repair! Please help!!

Frantic Phone Freak Out

Hi Frantic Phone Freak Out,

Oh no! I can understand why you’re freaked out! That sounds really upsetting. I once dropped Grandma Maxwell’s phone in the punch bowl at the senior center (long story). She was actually happy to have the excuse to replace it but I STILL felt terrible! ☹

The thing is, this has already happened. And it WAS an accident. So there’s not a whole lot you can do besides apologize to your friend and make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

Okay, so! If you’ve damaged something that belongs to someone else (or even hurt someone’s feelings), here are some things you can try: 

Apologize and take responsibility: It sounds like you’ve already done this. In some cases, it might be right to go to the person’s parents and apologize to them, too. In this case, they probably bought the phone. If you’re at a friend’s house and you break something, you should definitely tell her parents, so your friend doesn’t take the blame for something she didn’t do.

Help out if you can. The fact is, you probably can’t afford to offer to replace the phone. And you might not need to—in the case of an expensive phone, her parents might have insurance on it. But you should still offer to help pay for the phone, or repairs on it. (You might be surprised what can be fixed if she takes it to a professional!) This might involve some sort of deal where your parents have to pay for it and you pay it back over time. Or her parents might not let you pay for it, but you’ll have offered. After all, it’s the thought that counts!

About the photos…I’m afraid I can’t tell you how to get them back (I’m no super tech-wizard). But maybe you could get everyone in your friend group to send her their pictures of the group hanging out or other important events from the last year. It won’t get ALL her photos back, but the effort will mean a lot to her!

Make peace with what you can’t change. I think this is really helpful advice for a lot of situations. Because there are so many things out of our control! Like I said at the beginning, the phone is already broken. You can’t change that, plus going around feeling guilty just freaks you and everyone else out. Endlessly apologizing to your friend is probably just going to make her uncomfortable. At a certain point, you’ve just got to accept that accidents happen, people make mistakes, and move on. That’s a lot easier to do if you’ve done the first two steps – taken responsibility and offered to help if you could.

I’m so sorry this happened to you, and I hope you can figure something out! But please don’t worry. It sounds like you and your friend are still getting along, so she’s definitely forgiven you. You should forgive yourself as well! ☺

Have you ever broken something that belonged to someone else? How did you make up for it? Tell us in the comments!