In my last post, I talked about friendship and how to be a friend while still showing yourself love and compassion. Friendships are a beautiful thing. As humans we need connection. A great example is the Tom Hank’s movie Castaway when he was so starved for connection, he befriended Wilson, the volleyball. Although we love human connections and our relationships, there are times when conflict arises. It’s only natural. Here are 8 quick and easy ways to handle friendship conflict.
What is a Friend?
First, let’s define friendship. As Oprah said, “You need to surround yourself with people who are going to stimulate, inspire and lift you up, who are going to give you energy and not take energy away from you. And if you are around people that take energy away from you, that is an energy drain and that is the SIGN from your instinct, your inner voice, your intuition to say, LET THEM GO.” A friend is NOT someone who only reaches out in a crisis. A friend is NOT someone who gets mad at your boundaries. A friendship is two people who mutually love, respect, honor, trust and support each other.
Friendship Conflict is Inevitable
Even among the best of friends, there may be times within the relationships when there is an issue that needs to be addressed. Friendship conflict is inevitable in life. But friendship conflict doesn’t have to mean the end of the relationship. Instead, there are many simple but powerful techniques that can influence the direction of the conversation.
I was recently listening to a podcast called Hidden Brain Episode Relationships 2.0:How to Keep Conflicts from Spiraling. Harvard Psychologist Julia Minson spoke about a term called naive realism. Naive realism means people naively believe that their perception of reality and of how things ought to be are realistic – what I perceive is really out there. This makes sense when making observations about the physical world but when it comes to social situations, people can interrupt situations and conversations differently. People believe that the way they are seeing the situation is the correct and only logical way to see the situation.
Have you ever wondered about the difference between a disagreement and an argument? There are a few factors that may impact whether you are having a disagreement or conflict. Factor One – I am not ok that you believe something different than me. I desperately need YOU to believe what I believe. You may ask yourself if is this an important issue. Is this something that you believe has important consequences? Factor Two – Interdependence. Does my friend’s attitude actually affect my outcomes? Factor Three – Evidentiary Skew. Do I believe the evidence is overwhelmingly on my side? I think I have the right answer and my friend does not.
Quick and Easy Ways to Handle Friendship Conflict Better
#1 When Addressing Friendship Conflict, Be Compassionate.
Compassion is seeing your friend’s side as well and maybe letting some small things go. Most times your friends are not looking to offend you. Yet sometimes after playing the problem over and over again in your head, you come in ready to fight. Try taking a step back and remember what you love about your friendship.
#2 Be Secure in Yourself. Show Yourself Ongoing Self-Compassion
Recently I listened to The Life Coach School Podcast with Brooke Castillo” #413 Success and Friendship with Aprille Franks. According to Aprille, when we are secure with ourselves, we are not jealous of friends and their successes. She says we are all actually mirrors to each other. If we are feeling some type of envy, then it is really time to self-access. Our bodies are telling us there are things we are not doing that we are actually capable of.
#3 Try the Framing Technique
Dr. Marisa Franco, a friendship expert, suggests using a technique called “framing” – which ironically is also how we talk to narcissists. Begin a conversation with a statement that is inviting and welcoming. Research shows this will take the person you are talking to out of fight or flight mode into reconciliation mode. “Hey, our friendship is really important to me. So I want to make sure we talk through anything that comes up between us about things so we remain close. This is why I want to talk about xyz.”
#4 Meet Both Friends’ Needs
Dr. Franco also suggests that when working on friendship conflict, it is important to remember mutuality. Both friends’ needs should be met. It may take empathy, creativity, and energy. If the conversation goes wrong, do you have the capacity to tolerate it? Reflect and ask yourself what does this friendship give you that no other relationship does?
#5 Know that a Trio Can be Extra Challenging
Recently, I listened to a podcast by Sahara Rose…have I told you how much I LOVE listening to her? Sahara shares spiritual nuggets and inspires women to discover their dharma – your soul’s purpose – the reason you are here. She interviewed Danielle Bayard Jackson in The Highest Self Podcast Episode #467 Let’s Get Real About Navigating Female Friendships as an Adult. In this podcast, they discussed female friendships and that sometimes there are friendships of three. Three can be a tricky number. According to Danielle Bayard Jackson, you need to have a secure attachment style to be part of a trio. Being secure will help you when you want to question “Are they talking about me?” or “Are they having coffee without me?”
It is important to remember that within a threesome of friendship, there may be varying degrees of closeness. Think…am I ok with that?
Personally, I am part of a great friendship of three. I will admit that I am one of the two that reside in Michigan, while our other darling resides in the Chicago area. Because of this, I am included in most activities. However, I can genuinely say that when we are all three together, I do not feel insecure. I truly love these ladies like sisters. We went to college together and have know each other since we were eighteen. I’m confident in our relationship to be able to say if they need time alone…it’s all good. We are all adding value to one another’s lives.
#6 Communicate Before the Conflict
Sahara Rose and Danielle Bayard Jackson also talked about navigating conflict in a healthy way. There are times we build up a story in our heads that may or may not be true. We come in ready to fight. I loved the language Danielle suggested when talking through a problem with a friend. Danielle said we can ask a friend, “Are you good? Are we good? Because I shared something yesterday and I didn’t feel the support I needed from you. It made me feel like there was a disconnect between us so I just wanted to make sure we’re ok. Am I reading into it or are we good?”
Also, remember to reflect on the tone of your voice and your facial expression when you are communicating your needs with a friend. Body language makes up a very large percentage of what we communicate, and these can influence reactions.
#7 Use Conversational Receptiveness – HEAR
The word conversational receptiveness means that you use words and phrases to show you are engaged with your friend’s point of view. It is important to show your friend they are heard. As Dr. Julia Minson, Harvard Psychologist said in the podcast Hidden Brain Episode Relationships 2.0:How to Keep Conflicts from Spiraling, you can’t get credit for the thoughts in your head. There are four techniques that you can remember with the acronym HEAR.
- H = Hedging. Using words like “perhaps”, “sometimes” and “maybe” when discussing the issue with your friend.
- E = Emphasizing agreement. Saying something like “I agree that …” or “We both think…”
- A = Acknowledgement. Restate your friend’s position.
- R = Reframing to the positive. Reframing is saying the exact same idea but using positive words instead of negative words. For example, instead of saying, “I hate when people interrupt me,” you might say, “I really like it when people let me finish my thought. This can also work with self-conflict and the thoughts in your head. You may be saying to yourself, “I don’t want to let anyone down.” Try reframing this to the positive by saying, “It is okay to say “no.”
#8 Ask Questions
Asking questions demonstrates interest in the other person. It also shows a desire to learn about the other person and what they believe. The questions should be based on elaboration – “Would you please elaborate?” An example would be, I’m curious why you believe that?”
In the end remember, you are worthy and you are enough. You can get through a conflict with a friend by showing compassion, mutuality, framing, asking questions, affirming, and communicating. If you are in a friendship where you are mistreated, walk away. A healthy friendship will bring joy, happiness, and fulfillment into your life.
Looking for WONDERFUL tips on how to have successful friendships? Check out my article “7 Keys to Successful Women Friendships.”
Resources to Check Out
- Dr. Marissa Franco, Author of the book Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make And Keep Friends
- 4 minutes to Better Friendships | Dr Marisa Franco | Youtube
- The 2 Actions that can Repair Any Relationship | Shasta Nelson | YouTube
- Hidden Brain Podcast Relationships 2.0 How to Keep Conflict from Spiraling with Dr. Julia Mensa
- Highest Self Podcast #467 Let’s Get Real about Navigating Female Friendships as an Adult
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