On That Awkward Jerrod Carmichael-Tyler The Creator Moment, And The Right Way To Handle A Friend’s Feelings For You

Momodu Mansaray/Getty Images; Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

What do you do when a person you consider a good friend tells you that they have feelings for you?

Well, I know you certainly don’t call them a “stupid b—h.”

That is, however, what rapper and producer Tyler the Creator did when his friend, comedian Jerrod Carmichael sent him a text message back in 2022 expressing just that. It is a moment, captured as part of the first episode of the latter’s new HBO series, Jerrod Carmichael Reality Show, that has gone viral. For background, in his Emmy-winning HBO standup special Rothaniel (2022), Carmichael revealed that he’s gay. As for Tyler, he hasn’t specifically labeled his sexuality.

Back to the conversation. So, Tyler, known for his eccentricities, responded in a very Tyler way at the time, laughing and calling Carmichael a “stupid b—h” in a voice note following the text. But it was evident by Carmichael’s body language and attempts at vulnerability in the moment, which appeared as discomfort with a side of frustration, that he was looking for Tyler to acknowledge what he shared and address the distance that was growing between them because of it.

“I feel like you left me hanging out there,” he shared.

“Getting news like that and then avoiding it is a way to avoid change,” Tyler responds, later adding, “And now we’re here and I still don’t know how to respond.”

When asked what the ideal response would have been for Carmichael, the funny man, in a serious moment, said anything would have been better than brushing it off. So Tyler gave him something, which was the truth.

“Are you wanting the same thing from me? You tell me that and I’m like nah, not like that. That’s like a brother,” he says. “That man’s like family. Truly like family. Like a true brother.”

From there, a server, with food interrupted their conversation, which made things all the more awkward — and kept true closure from occurring.

Article continues after video.

But could Tyler have given Carmichael the answer he wanted considering he didn’t feel the same way?

One of the most interesting things I found about this viral moment was to find people who too had a friend express feelings for them that they didn’t know how to respond to. I specifically recall one person admitting that they handled this information the wrong way and the friend “hated me” for it after the fact. So that left me wondering, how do you handle a situation like this when you don’t want your friend to be more than just a friend, but don’t want the relationship you all have to fall apart because of their romantic feelings?

I asked an expert to share their insights. Beverley Andre, licensed marriage and family therapist, relationship coach and founder of BeHeart Counseling Services, offered some perspective, from the best way to handle your friend’s feelings, the wrong ways to respond, and the reality of the grief that can come if the friendship, understandably, can’t move forward.

ESSENCE: I first wanted to know what you thought about the fact that Mr. Carmichael shared his feelings with Tyler, the Creator, via text? Should that have been a face-to-face conversation to start?

Beverley Andre, LMFT: I am pro face-to-face conversation because you can hear the person’s tone and intention. A conversation regarding your feelings, especially if this is the first time it’s being mentioned, requires a bit of vulnerability, and doing it over text creates space for assumptions regarding the person’s tone.

Once a person who you consider a good friend tells you that they have feelings for you, no matter the medium, but you don’t feel the same, what’s the best way to go to be honest with them in the hopes of preserving the relationship?

Validate their feelings, and reply honestly about how you feel, using care in your tone and language. You want to be careful not to dismiss their feelings or convey that they’re wrong or have made a mistake. If preserving the relationship is important, ask if they have the desire and capacity to continue in friendship. It may be difficult for them, so you want to empathize with their decisions.

What’s the wrong way to go? Obviously, we know the “stupid b—h” response from Tyler was a no-no
, though that seems to be his personality. But otherwise, it seems like he couldn’t really directly address the situation at all, which didn’t seem to help.

The wrong way to go is completely dismissing your friends’ feelings and avoiding conversation. Self-regulation is a critical skill here because, like Tyler, you may feel a bit thrown off and unable to respond immediately. If that’s the case, ask for time to process and let them know you’ll reach back within x number of days with a response. Please, don’t leave them hanging in the space of the unknown.

How can two people move forward without that awkwardness and discomfort that can, in essence, ruin the friendship?

It’s possible to navigate awkwardness and discomfort instead of trying to avoid it. It’s natural to feel this way, especially when there are misaligned expectations and dashed dreams of what could’ve been. Entering a new space in the friendship will require vulnerability and compassion. The surefire way to ruin the friendship is to avoid your friend and avoid interactions with them because you’re feeling awkward and uncomfortable.

Do you think odds are in favor of a friendship surviving unrequited love or a crush gone cold?

The odds are truly 50/50 because you have to factor in the depth of feelings, and whether the response was empathetic or hurtful. Surviving unrequited love is contingent on how the friend treated their friend during a highly vulnerable moment.

If it can’t survive, what advice do you have for people to make peace with that reality, knowing a friend they cared about couldn’t carry on the relationship because you didn’t feel the same?

Understand that the process may feel like grief. You’re losing a friendship that matters. Some may even feel guilty about not being able to reciprocate feelings. In the end, there may be a lot of unanswered questions and thoughts —around the shoulda, woulda, coulda, and around the decisions that were made.

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