Um...perhaps we should talk later..Friends are precious, so conflicts need to be handled with care. Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at freedigitalphotos.net
It’s can be uncomfortable at best, and heart-wrenching at worse: fights with friends. Nobody wants them, no-one plans them but at least for some of us, it seems an inevitable painful occurrence that does happen.
I am not going to stereotype. I have only heard that fights between two male buddies can be ‘easier’. I have only heard that after a couple of punches are exchanged, the next day, two guys can be off to the pub with their mate they had a brawl with the previous day, “like nothing happened”. As I said, I have no idea of the veracity of this, if this is true the majority or even some of the time. (I am interested in male readers’ inputs about this).
I have never been involved in a physical fight. I might be just as wrong in thinking this is typical, but women often use the ‘silent treatment’, hurtful statements and the like. Though I have heard of women having physical punch-ups, too, though I have never been involved in one.
No matter which way you look at it, I don’t know too many people who relish conflict. The closer the person it is who you have had an argument or misunderstanding with, the harder it can be, because naturally you feel like you have lost more.
There is no right or wrong way to handle conflict. However, one thing I do not advocate is physical abuse! So, what do you do when your best buddy and you have had a falling out? What if it’s an acquaintance?
Firstly, do you want to make up? If it is a close friend, it is more likely that you will, even though in the heat of anger you may feel like this is not the case.
DON’T be impulsive. In the heat of the moment, you can say things and do things which, believe me, you will have a good chance of regretting later. It can also make the process of mending fences harder later. DO wait. Agree to walk away for a while. If the other person wants to fight, let them know you don’t think this is a good idea, and if necessary separate yourself from the situation, as much as you possibly can anyway. The time you wait before attempting to mend the conflict depends on can depend on how intense it was. You often will have an intuitive idea of when things have started to heal a bit.
DON’T see just one side of the argument. If you only think the problem was with the other person, it’s going to be hard to make up, because an important part of any communication, including that involved in healing conflict, is seeing another person’s point of view. If you think you were solely at fault, again validate you saw things differently. DO take time to put yourself in both party’s shoes. Of course, already being in your shoes (!) it will be easier to see your side of the argument. Here’s a useful exercise. Write down the argument from both of your points of view. Yes, that’s right, hard as it may be, even if you think they were totally in the wrong, put yourself in your friend’s shoes, and write down how she (or he) thought and felt about it.
DON’T involve others. Besides the fact that others probably don’t want to get involved, trying to win others to your side of thinking, can cause friction between extra people who were not initially involved, or awkwardness at the very least. DO if you feel you have to, talk to an impersonal party such as a counsellor, or someone who doesn’t know your friend.
DON’T force a time to make up. The other person may not be ready. First of all, try to assess and look for clues that enough time has passed to try to heal the wounds. Friendly eye contact or a smile may be a clue…DO plan to at least try to if the relationship is important to you. If you feel that time has elapsed sufficiently for anger and hurt to have appeased but nothing has been said, you could write a letter or a card, asking if they want to talk about it. Or you could write down how you imagine they felt and thought about the issue you fought about, as well as your side…and leave it with them.
DON’T force reconciliation if the other party doesn’t want it. It takes ‘two to tango’ and ‘two to make up’. DO try to accept where the other person is in.
DON’T blame yourself or hold grudges if the friendship doesn’t survive the fight. DO Try to accept that you had to ‘agree to disagree’.
DON’T ignore feelings of sadness or loss. If you push these down, you may find yourself feeling all sorts of emotions, and could end up convincing yourself that nothing happened when you know it did. DO allow yourself time to grieve, and validate the pain you feel surrounding your loss. You wouldn’t expect yourself to just move on if a loved one died: in a way you have lost someone, but have the extra grief of it being on ‘bad terms’.
Some friendships will survive a fight, some may not. Try your best to be fair to you and the other person, and even if it does not, you may be surprised, in a year hurt may heal. If not you know you have done your best to control your impulses, see both sides of the argument and know deep down, either way, you have done your best.