We all crave to be known by others and to live in relationship with people. In my opinion, being in community is directly related to my success as a mama. I simply cannot fathom bearing the sadness of loss and grief, the celebration of success, or the day-to-day mundane routines of my life without my people walking along beside me. True friends don’t disappear when the going gets tough; instead, they stick around even harder.
“No man is an island.” – John Donne
It doesn’t mean that friendship is always easy. In fact, friendships are often refined through the fires of conflict. My friend Kara said many times, “Always move towards each other in love.” You can’t stand still, and you should never back away. Even though it may hurt and it will almost always feel uncomfortable, conflict brings beautiful rewards with priceless results.
When a friend has hurt you, you need to go to them directly and explain (with kindness) what they have done to offend you. Think carefully about what you will say before you meet. Your conversation may be messy and reconciliation may take time, so be patient. Here are some tips based on what I’ve learned through both good and bad experiences with conflict with friends.
- Avoid extreme words such as “always,” “never,” and “only.” Weigh your words before you speak, and steer clear of exaggeration at all costs.
- Actually listen. Don’t just pretend to “hear” while you’re thinking of your next best rebuttal.
- Be humble. Accept what you may have done to hurt your friend as well. Even if it was unintentional, apologize. This acknowledges your friend’s feelings, which are always real- regardless of the facts. Instead of saying, “I am sorry you felt that way,” say “I’m sorry that I made you feel that way.”
- As mamas, be aware of how you present the conflict when your children are listening. (This could be when you are on the phone with your spouse or discussing the issue at home.) Use your conflict as a teaching opportunity to equip your kids with coping mechanisms to deal with conflict in their own lives in a healthy manner. We all know that our kids are always watching, and our example sets the tone for their friendships too.
- If things are too heated, take a break. It might mean just stopping to make a pot of coffee or refill your water glass, or it might mean picking another day to continue the conversation. Also, set a clear length of time for the conversation before you begin so that you don’t spiral into an abyss of lost time.
- Consider your friend’s manner of processing difficult conversations. Does she usually say everything off the top of her head in order to process out loud? Or does she need some time to digest your words alone before speaking? (If verbal communication is too hard at first, consider written communication as an option. BUT always always proofread what you’ve written and have a neutral person close to you do the same. Written words can be tricky when it comes to communicating tone and the general feel of your thoughts.)
- Don’t “vent” to other friends who are close to the relationship or situation. If you need to talk through the conflict, find a safe person who will not gossip and be negatively affected by the information you present about your friend. In fact, a third party friend might be helpful for you to understand both sides of the conflict.
- Steer clear of sharing passively about the situation on social media. Nothing good ever comes from backhanded complaints, for you, or for the friend who offended you.
Disagreements are normal, and they often open our eyes to a fresh way of thinking about situations if we are willing to really listen. But sometimes, disagreements turn into conflict and can damage the relationship if not addressed. Reconciliation should always be the goal, although a newly reconciled relationship may have to look differently depending on the nature of the offense. Even if the outcome is not what is desired, know that you have done your best to speak the truth in love. And more often than not, the end result will be evident as another beautiful stitch in the tapestry of your friendship- because friends are always worth it!
Do you have another strategy in handling conflict with your own friends?