Q: "HELP I rarely get into fights with my friends but when I do, I’d rather just be passive-aggressive and keep my anger to myself rather than be confrontational" - Anonymous
Growing up I had this one friend who was SO SO PETTY… the kind of a friend you just had to keep happy and keep on your good side. Irritable and sensitive, she dealt with her problems with friends by, for lack of a better word, ‘ghost’ in person. I swear I would approach this girl to talk things through and she would stare right past me and just pretend I wasn’t there. How she managed, may I mention as a 5th grader, to keep up this passive-aggressive and incredibly rude disposition while ignoring me for days on end still perplexes me. The way this friend acted irritated me so much and even at 10 years old I knew that handling problems in this manner was immature and unproductive. Given my experiences with this friend growing up, I’ve been aware of how I’ve handled disagreements throughout my teenage years. Sure, I’ve learned my lesson a few times about fighting over text and getting other friends involved, but I like to pride myself on handling situations with respect, compassion, and level-headed calmness.
If you and your friend are in a riff… about exclusions, a boy, something big, something small, maybe even if you don’t even understand why your friend is mad, I want to share some tips and advice with you about how to keep things cordial, honest, and vulnerable with awareness for one another and the greater friendship at hand.
Prep: Be prepared! Know what you’re going to say. Talk to your mom, a friend, or a trusted adult. Think through your ‘lines of argument’ if you will, and exactly how you want to approach the conversation. If it’s helpful, write it down on the notes app! Be thoughtful and be ready.
Keep your setting very intimate and structured. Ask your friend out to coffee or go on a walk. NO OVER THE PHONE BUSINESS. As I mentioned, I learned pretty early on that handling tiffs over the phone is not smart. Promise me, no calls, not over text (definitely not over text), no facetime.
Begin your conversation with the most authentic and heartfelt testament to the friendship as a whole. Ex: “We’ve been friends for ages and you mean the world to me. I’ve always felt that we could be honest with each other and I hope you’ve always known you can come to me when things seem off”. Speak to how important this person means to you. Speak to your intentions and your decency.
Embrace any discomfort and be honest about your anxiety and what it’s taken to muster the urge to even confront your friend. “I’ve been dreading this conversation because I hate confrontation”... if that’s how you feel.
Vent your emotions within an ‘I statement’ framework: “I feel so hurt and blind sighted by the very obvious tension between us. I feel like I’ve been the recipient of obvious disregard and bitterness over the past few weeks that has felt very isolating”
Be a good listener. Give your friend the attention she deserves to explain her side of the story. Keep your ears open and don’t jump to conclusions too early. If you don’t know how to respond to something exactly, tell your friend you need time to think and sit with what's been said.
End on a positive note and almost make a ‘plan’ going for moving forward. Whether it be as simple as “next time, let’s make an effort to communicate better” to something more severe like “I want to sit with this and maybe we can give each other a few days and talk about this more later”. Whatever you do, if this friend is important to you and you want this friendship to last going forward, don’t be the immature friend that ruins the entire conversation by ending.
The truth is that it is SO scary to be the confrontational one. It's almost easier to brush these issues to the side and try to move forward without addressing how you truly feel but that's a short-term fix. Long term, these fights and healthy conversations make for long-lasting, strong friendships. Have these conversations. Keep your friendships real.
We got this,