Fri(end)s? – How to resolve conflicts with your close Friends
Just gonna jump right into this one, there’s a lot to cover but this is a quick summary for those joining me for the first time.
In my first post, I decided to break this topic up and go over some of the main reasons why people fall out.
Then in my 2nd, I Spoke a lot about one subject in particular, ‘Whether or not you should sleep with your best friend’
In my 3rd post on this subject, I uncovered the truth as to why you keep fighting with your best friend.
Now in my fourth, I’m going to address what I consider as good practice when confronting a friend about an issue that’s pissed you off.
I’m gonna sneak in a lil post about those friends who always say they’re sorry and what thy really mean, you can read that right here
Finally to close, I wanna cover what you should consider when deciding whether or not a friendship should continue. From both perspectives.
Why am I doing this you all ask?
I’m covering this because I think this whole subject is something most of us fuck up real bad and need a hand with. Simple
So with that quick summary done, let’s crack on with how to squash beef permanently, like a boss.
Chillax before you react
Before deciding on what to do, you need to calm the fuck down.
Keep your emotions completely out of this. Pride, always comes before a fall and your ego can be found in the centre of almost every rash decision you’ve ever made.
Now is not to the time. Put it to one side.
If this situation is unravelling right before your eyes, try and take yourself out of it and gather your composure. Breathe until your heart rate comes back to normal and you start thinking with a clear head.
You are most likely going to be still hurting and may naturally want to express that pain and frustration but this isn’t the opportunity to share those raw emotions. They need major refining first.
Again if either of you are under the influence at the time, wait till you sober up to have it out with one another, or when there is no one else around who may interfere (other friends, kids etc.). Try and pick a nice quiet time or meet them earlier than you need to, next time you see them so you have the time to discuss your grievances going forward.
You have to react promptly.
It’s no fucking good going,
You know that thing that happened 8 years ago,
I hate you for it.
This does nothing.
If you believe someone has wronged you and you want genuine closure, it needs to be addressed right away.
Now of course, if you are hot headed and need to get your thoughts in order that is fine. If something is happening that irks you, you need to take yourself out of that situation to recompose (as highlighted above). However, you should address the situation the next time you see the culprit.
If that ends up being, 30 minutes, 2 hours or the next day. So be it.
Try and not let it get passed three days though. At this point, it’s usually too late to bring things up in a way that leads to positive change.
Also, make sure it is the first thing you do when you next interact with them. Don’t wait for an opportunity which may never present itself.
Also I am an old school person and suggest avoiding doing this across social media, telephone or text mediums.
If distance is an issue, everyone now has access to skype (do that instead) but if not, this is something that needs to be done ‘mano o mano’ if it is to have any chance of working. At the very least, you need to be able to square each other down.
Absolute work case scenario, put it in a hand written letter but follow it up in person as soon as you can.
Stand the fuck up & look them in the eye.
The best way to have these moments is while standing and ideally you should both be at the same eye level if possible.
Ladies if you need to wear heels for this to happen then put on your heels. Whatever it fucking takes.
Clear eye to eye contact is important, try and hold their gaze throughout. In situations like this, you usually find if you hold your gaze with your friend for the entire time, you are 400% more likely to come out of this with your agenda still intact. If you are truly badass about it, try and do it while blinking as little as possible too (this is some pro level tips right there).
This whole bit is a psychological thing and I can’t 100% explain the science behind it but it works so soooo much better this way.
When you finish, you can start blinking again, sit down or whatever.
Don’t try to make things like they used to be
Another mistake people make is trying to get things back to what they were.
Everyone enjoys the comforts of the familiar but that shouldn’t blind you from the reality, it was this overfamiliarity that caused the issue in the first place.
Nothing should ever go back to the way it was. These events force us all to grow forward, not to shrivel back.
The strain of trying to return the friendship to how it was is another factor which causes most people to act rashly.
You really need to start thinking of events like eggs.
Once they are scrambled, they are scrambled
We need to stop looking back to the poached egg dreams of yesterday and start looking ahead to the omelette facts ahead.
The sooner you realise that going back is not an option, the quicker you can resolve this conflict.
We should be trying to make things better by MOVING FORWARD.
You can’t change your friends
The Other thing that’s helped me leaps and bounds, is realising that your plan of action going forward have to be confined to activities assigned to you only.
Bottom line is, You can’t change your friends.
Yes, you can influence them (albeit mostly their moods) and provide them with the opportunities to change themselves but you cannot directly change their behaviour in any shape or form.
You have just as much change changing them as you do the weather.
In any case do you really want to be in a friendship where you have to manipulate your bestie in order to get them to act in a way that isn’t detrimental? That’s just fake as fuck.
If those are the types of people you wish to surround yourself with, good luck with that.
Changing their behaviour should never be on the wish list of topics you want to discuss in any confrontation.
When you go into a situation and you ask people to change, it automatically puts them in a defensive manner which makes them even less likely to adapt going forward.
Now you may come back and say,
Why the fuck should I change, I’ve done nothing wrong here.
Well to be fair, you haven’t done much right neither but that is a moot point.
The reason why you should change is that it restores a sense of balance to the equation. Most people idealise friendships as being this 50:50 partnership. While this is idealistic, it’s usually true during a conflict that the perception of this balance shifts drastically, with each party believing that they are the one being hard done by.
Making changes to yourself (even small ones) takes strides in clamouring some of this sense of control and balance back.
LET THEM EXPLAIN THEMSELVES
There are two sides to every story and it’s super important you obtain theirs before you take any action. This won’t always seem productive. Here’s three reasons why
- You may not always hear what you want to.
- Your friend may not be completely honest with you in their recital of how events played out.
- They can even omit key facts which puts them in a better light
As much as this might piss you off, that isn’t relevant right now. The key is that they’re allowed to freely have their say on the matter.
Not having all the facts, leads most people to either over or underreact during these confrontations (see my previous post on this). By giving your friends this time, they can air out past grievances which may help put their actions into perspective.
Most importantly, you now have a valid full story to justify your actions going forward.
Don’t make the mistake of allowing them to turn this conversation back on you. As soon as it goes down this route, it usually turns into a ‘he said/ she said’ argument and your initial goal is gone with the wind.
If they start pointing fingers and making accusations, don’t bite, just let them finish. Put that to one side and deal with that incident separately in exactly the same manner.
Also what is important is that you try and not let this information, cloud your judgement
If it is clear that there was just a simple misunderstanding, then that’s fine but don’t let them off the hook either without clearly following up with the rest of this.
This is important as it sets a precedence going forward with all future interactions.
It shows your feelings are not ones to be fucked with, which generally makes people more cooperative in other parts of your friendship.
Address the situation
This sounds super simple but we somehow manage to fuck this up sooo bad.
We are all prone to blowing things out of proportion, especially in an argument. Personally I blame films, TV soaps and classic stories which provide a sense of entertainment for the viewer.
In reality conflicts should be pretty short, sweet and straight forward.
However, we still crave that sense of drama and the confrontation. Even when the issue at hand is really quite straight forward, we manage do the unthinkable?
We add shit to the pot.
We search the corners of our mind for every trace of evidence and use that to make ourselves more and more angry. We find it and lay that sucker on real thick and nice and with real fucking contempt too.
This is one major taboo you really should avoid.
Problem solving occurs one small step at a time. No one climbs K2 in a single step. Remember the goal here is to initiate positive change, not to justify a witch hunt on a character assassination crusade. You are far more likely to achieve this if you are less preachy and if the issues are smaller and easier to manage.
Please don’t go in wanting a tidier shared house and finish demanding a complete overhaul to their genetic code.
Also if you have already spoken about something and come to agreement, you cannot use that as evidence later on.
That is the cruellest of the cruel, bringing up squashed beef is…. Just unkind and actually quite telling you’re still being petty about it. Don’t lead people into thinking something is ok when it’s not. Don’t make something out to be a bigger deal at the time than it is to justify your anger either.
If you have multiple issues with people, don’t let them build up and give it to them in one big go, you should break ‘em up, start with the smaller ones and if they are sticking, gradually work your way up.
Just be sensible about the whole thing and go putting all your cunt eggs in one basket.
DON’T PUT YOUR FRIENDS ON TRIAL
Another mistake people make is to use this opportunity to put their friends in the blocks and throw the book at them, interrogating them and asking them leading questions to incriminate themselves.
In reality, you should take this opportunity to be as quiet as possible, asking simple and open questions. Allowing them to speak in their own words and form their own conclusions based on their unique perspective.
Secondly it’s a respect thing, ya know the ol ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ and all that jazz. Everyone has a right to defend their actions, no matter how shitty you think they might be. They may have a legitimate reason for it after all.
They say changes in people’s behaviour is normally a sign something significant has changed in their lives. So before nailing your friend’s ass to the wall, you might unravel there is something they really need your help with.
LET THEM KNOW THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR ACTIONS
This is a strong and important tactic to utilise going forward. Tapping into their sense of empathy is a really powerful tool to get your message across.
Not everyone understands the consequences of their actions so clearly highlighting this is the key practice to finally get things moving in the right direction.
Below is a simple seven step program to clearly get your point across with the biggest impact possible.
- Outline your original expectations for what you expected to happen.
- Highlight how their actions caused a deviation from this.
- List the consequence or penalties of this deviation
- Add how that made you feel
- Indicates how this has changed how you feel about your friend
- Remind them how they used to make you feel.
- Contemplate why the change has occurred
It’s a very simple, highly structured and super powerful template to adopt. While initially based on facts, it also pulls on the emotional heart strings for full effect. Double whammy.
Another key element is it ends on a nostalgic positive feel which is allows your friend to realise the difference between now and how they used to make you feel.
When the conversation is structured in this manner, it becomes more like a constructive critique rather than an old fashioned bollocking.
You may be one of the many people who think they already do this when they confront friends with issues. You’ll be wrong though.
If you are one of these, you usually find you miss out some of the key elements or discuss these topics in the wrong order which makes them far less effective. Here are some examples of these classic taboos you keep doing
- It loses it focus
- It takes too long
- They get interrupted
- The physical and emotional impact aren’t highlighted
- It’s done in the wrong order.
- It’s too whiny
- It doesn’t highlight what actually took place
Remember to try and keep this part short, straight to the point and concise. Make sure you practice it before you say it. It shouldn’t take you longer than a minute to recite, so use that as a guideline.
Let’s run through an example. Here is a lady who is having an issue with her roommate best friend for taking her car without telling her. I will break each part into its relevant section above
- Today I was supposed to use the car at 7:15 to get to an important meeting with a client by 8 am. I told you about it yesterday to make sure there wasn’t an issue you said you wouldn’t need it.
- However this morning you borrowed the car without telling me. By the time you got back at 7.45, I ended up being 45 minutes late for my meeting.
- Because of this, I lost the contract with the client and I got given a verbal warning from my boss
- I now feel super down because that was my first big chance with a major client and now I’ve blown all chances of a promotion.
- This whole thing makes me feel like you no longer have my back.
- I always used to consider you as a rock I could depend on through thick and thin.
- I don’t know why that’s changed. What do you think has happened to us?
So now the lady’s friend knows,
- What’s wrong,
- How it occurred,
- The consequence of her actions
- How it’s affected her friend.
Finally there is a clear identification that some form or change is required going forward.
This is a real solid basis to start building things back up as everything from your point of view has now been mapped out.
Also at this point, people may want to question how your feelings have changed but it is important that you display this honestly and you can justify it by saying
‘I am just stating how it made me feel, would you prefer if I lied?’
Normally this is when you get people back on track.
DECIDE ON WHETHER OR NOT TO CONTINUE YOUR FRIENDSHIP.
At this point, you have come to the point whether you need to decide whether you wish to keep them as a friend or not.
Obviously, this should all be decided before you engage in this confrontation but it is this decision which will change how the rest of this confrontation plays out.
The next bit assumes that you do want to keep them in your lives but to help you make that decision, please read my final piece on this friendship saga.
FORM AN AGREED VERBAL AGREEMENT GOING FORWARD
Setting up clear expectations of future interactions, is vital in order to stop the same issues occurring over and over. Here’s the best way to do it.
There is this great video by Elliot Hulse tackling the subject of bullying that struck quite a chord with me. I can’t find the bloody thing so I will just talk you through it
A boy was being continually bullied at school and he wrote to Elliot to help him.
Elliot told him to inform everyone of what the bully did in the past, how it made him feel and if the Bully was to hit him again, he would punch him in the face.
So the boy first told his parents, then he told the school principal. Then he calmly walked up to bully, reminded him of his previous actions, how it made him feel and finally told him that if this behaviour continued, he would get a punch in the face.
Now here is the important bit.
Elliot also told the boy to get each of them to confirm they understood and not to allow the subject to change until they did so.
So the boy got this acknowledgement from his family and the school principal. Finally he confronted the bully himself. It wasn’t easy but after some initial dodging, the bully finally looked him square in the eyes and said
And that literally was the end of that.
Holy Jedi Shit
I believe this is the key to resolving any issue you have with a friend. And no, it’s not making threatening ultimatums of violence you’ll never follow up on etc. *cough* overreactor *cough*.
It’s about setting out a new template for how you interact with them going forward and getting the other party to acknowledge it.
This is what 99% of people get wrong and the underlying issue why things never improve amongst friends, once the relationship starts to spiral out of control.
Like Elliot highlighted, you need to follow through with these two key points.
- You need to make your friend acknowledge the consequence of their actions and how it made you feel. Remember to focus on the emotional elements of this.
- You need to make them acknowledge how your interactions with them will change going forward.
Without this, pretty much everything that you’ve built up so far, will be for naught.
You also need to make sure the only answer you get from both of these comments is.
The following just won’t cut it.
- Fair enough
- No worries
- Yeah yeah
- I get it
We use these phrases far too often in our everyday life without any real form of acceptance.
However, the phrase ‘I understand’ is less exploited and deep down still holds some value, so tapping into that makes it far harder subconsciously for people to go back on what was agreed.
Finally, Do you understand?