Resolving Conflict in Friendships

Written by Kristin Feenstra

conflictfriendOops. The other day I had a bit of a falling out with my good friend Alissa. I told a guy she liked about a conversation we shared, not knowing she would be so offended by it. After my disagreement with Alissa, I realized that I had some decisions to make as to how I was going to deal with this conflict.

Yes, I had over-stepped my boundaries. No, I didn’t want to lose my three-year friendship with Alissa over a comment I made to the guy she liked. So now what? In my mind, the options were to let her go in hopes the problem would go away or to try to talk it out with her. I decided to attempt the confrontation.

Conflict. It’s a fact of life. It’s a fact in friendships. You develop a friendship with someone, and conflict is sure to occur.

Many superficial friendships end up being shelved after an argument because there isn’t enough depth to warrant all the trouble it takes to smooth over the disagreement. Unfortunately, even when the friendship reaches a deeper level, conflict continues to happen and can break apart a relationship.

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  1. First and foremost, talk the situation over soon after it occurs. And do it soon! From my experience, people begin to talk about what happened even sooner afterwards.Good, step in the right direction, right? Well, not always… particularly when the talking isn’t with the person involved, but with other friends or acquaintances. People begin to pick sides. The gossip circulates and all of a sudden, friends become enemies. Suddenly everyone is mad at everyone else.So, be sure to talk with the person with whom you are upset without the interference of people who aren’t really involved.
  2. Resolve it the day it happens. One rule my parents follow in their marriage is that they don’t go to bed angry with each other. They always attempt to resolve things the day it happens so that in the morning, it’s a fresh start with no past grudges.I’ve found I need a short cool down period of a couple of minutes so that I don’t act in anger, so I can act with a more rational mind instead. For some, counting to one hundred before saying anything, may be an option.Whatever you do, don’t let things ride for too long.Even when you don’t see eye to eye, agree to disagree. Tell them that while you may not agree with what they’re saying, you still value their friendship.
  3. Try to see the other person’s perspective. Sometimes if you sit down and talk things over, you begin to see where the other person is coming from. Realize that everyone has been created differently with various talents, abilities and personality traits. For example, you might be a leader while your friend is more of a follower. You may be frustrated with him or her for not being very decisive. Yet it is important to understand that no matter what your quirks, each person is still unique and needs to be appreciated.
  4. Here’s a tough one – initiate resolution. Be the first person in a fight to say sorry for your part. Even when you think the other person is wrong, it’s not a bad thing to say “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry if I offended you in that way.”If you’re honest, genuine, and gentle in delivering your words, there’s a good chance your friend will reciprocate positively. Use feeling words as no one can argue with your feelings. For example, “When you do this, you make me feel silly.”
  • Focus on the bigger picture. Successfully facing and working through the discomfort of conflict in a friendship has a worthwhile reward: a deeper relationship.
  • Don’t accuse by using the word, “you.”
  • Be sensitive. Try to offer solutions when appropriate, but know when to listen. Don’t underestimate the importance of a listening ear.
  • Most important, be loving in what you do. Don’t go out to “get” the other person, but try to focus on peacefully resolving the disagreement.

Resolving conflict in any friendship is not the most pleasant task, but it is worth the hassle for the result on the other end is a deeper friendship.

Reprinted with permission from Iamnext.com.

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23 Responses to “Resolving Conflict in Friendships”

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Edt, I appreciate your passion for looking to God’s instruction in our lives. I think you might have missed the biblical principles that this article uses to talk about resolving conflict:
    1) “talk the situation over” – Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother.”
    2) “Resolve it the day it happens” – Ephesians 4:26 “do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger.”
    3) “Realize that everyone has been created differently with various talents, abilities and personality traits” – 1Corinthians 12:25 “so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another.”
    4) “Be the first person in a fight to say sorry for your part” – Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.”

    Can you see any other biblical truth in what was written in this article? And equally important, is there anything that you think disagrees with what God says in the Bible?

  • Edt says:

    What is going on ? I thought Power to Change was a Christian group, and you don’t even mention ANY biblical principals for resolving conflict (of which there are many !!). What’s the deal? Are you ashamed of the bible, or just unaware that it speaks powerfully and wisely into this issue?

  • Esther Esther says:

    Dear Gkzd,

    You are right. It is both ways in which one does not blame another. Communication is very key in any and every relationship.

  • Gkzd says:

    “I’m sorry you feel that way” is one the most patronizing, invalidating things you can say to a person. “I’m sorry if I offended you in that way.” If? That is NOT an apology. It’s not even respectful.

    A better approach is to say something like, “It seems our friendship isn’t working. What can we do to make it better?” This puts the emphasis on the friendship itself, and not any particular misdeeds of either party. It’s a clearer path to resolution.

  • Alfred Alfred says:

    Hi Andy, It must have taken some courage to write for help, and I suspect you did it because relationships are so very important. You only have ONE SON, and I’d say he should be your #1 friend! In that case it may even be a blessing that you (at least temporarily) lost those 2 other friends. Can you “feel” with your son? Do you know his favorite sports, interests, and abilities? He may just need the friendship that you can give, in order to develop and blossom into a man of confidence and of great character! I say this because I failed to be a friend to our (adopted) son! He found understanding and friendship in several of his uncles. His character is so different than mine, and I still don’t understand him. But that is hardly an excuse for my failing to communicate with him. He got into the wrong crowd, I feel, for even while there is Christian family all around, he does not know Jesus personally.
    As for the other 2 fellows, ask God whether it is important that they again find you. I say that because I feel that the “journey of life” is more than having fun; it is finding joy in pleasing God and in helping others to journey in the right direction. There is great joy in accomplishment as well as in true friendship! Those do not involve liquor. So, I hope you do not make the mistake I made, and all the best in getting to know your son. Blessings to the both of you, Alfred.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Andy, you may have already done this but your first step really is apologizing. Being drunk and under stress is no excuse for being rude to friends and you are the one to open the dialogue with “I am sorry”. Friendships often go through these kinds of rough patches and usually the way that they are resolved is through dialogue. The key to effective conflict resolution is to focus your effort on understanding how your actions/words hurt your friends. So often I focus my efforts on trying to justify what I had done but that just ends up flat. As you begin to understand the full weight of your hurtful behavior look for ways that you can make that right. The better matched your restitution the more likely your friends will see that you understand and are sorry for the way you treated them.

    I have always been struck by the wisdom of the encouragement in the Bible to “speak the truth in love”. It is such an effective way of dealing with conflict. Words spoken in love but lacking in truth often avoids the hard aspects of life and ends with a very shallow relationship. True words that lack love become cruel and isolating. Balancing words of truth and love is key to healthy relationships.

  • Andy says:

    I’ve been a fulltime single dad for 7 years and my child has been all my focus – he is now 17. In the last 6 months I have discovered a social activity where I have met people and had a ball. I’ve become pretty tight with 2 other mates who are quite a bit younger than me. I’ve also realised that my son can be mates with these guys as well. I’ve been going through a few heavy issues with work and other stuff and unfortunately I had a breakdown in front of them a few nights ago. Whilst drunk I was really really rude to them and now they have disowned me and told me to focus on my son and leave them alone. For the first time in a long time I was really enjoying life and had my own identity and these became my main social group. I feel like not only have I lost my friends but my social life as well. I have spoken with a counsellor today but hasn’t really helped. I along with they need some space as things got way to heavy but not sure how to handle this.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Anushka, an important lesson that I have learned is that I cannot be responsible for other people’s reactions to me. I can’t make somebody see me that way I want them to or respond to me the way I want them to. All I can do is make sure I treat them honorably and with love. How they are going to respond is up to them. My suggestion is that you continue to be loving and caring to your friend and hope that she sees the authenticity of your friendship and the deceptive friendship the other girls offer. Remember that authentic friendship is based on caring, honest communication and a willingness to accept people as they are and not how you want them to be.

    That is the kind of friendship that God extends to each of us. He loves us even though we have turned out backs on Him. His love saves us from ourselves and sets us on a path to new life in Him. He speaks openly with us and helps us become the best we can be. He sacrifices Himself for us. That is true friendship and when we allow Him to transform who we are, it impacts all the rest of our friendships as well. If you want to know more about the way that God loves us have a look at this video http://powertochange.com/itv/spirituality/life-in-six-words

  • Anushka says:

    hi, i have a friend name michell and in this month we had a misunderstanding by a friend of ours she told that i was not talking to her for more than month which was not true then the same girl told something else to michell and it led to a fight then she just blamed me i am no good friend and stuff which was really disappointing i reached home and i directly went to my room and cried my mother asked me what was the matter of me crying because i don’t cry to easily i told her the whole incident she called michell told her to stop fighting just be friends again but then the matter was solved for few days again she started fighting with me and she blamed or taunted me by saying that i should again cry and call my mother to help me with this which is really rude even then i kept my voice down but she started it to whole different thing that i am the reason she cant be with other friends who do the bad stuff when i told she can do those things if she wants but give me some time too to hang out with her but she still is playing her ignoring game and commenting rude things to me i want her back to be my friend but she just is attracted to people who are totally have a messy bad mind and all the time she is blaming me for everything please help me in removing this conflict

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Hannah, I appreciate your professional input. As Sherry said, the folks who respond to comments on these forums are not counselors or therapists. It is not our goal to give people professional advice. Instead, this is a safe place for people to ask questions, make comments and interact. Those who participate on behalf of Power To Change want to facilitate the conversation, let people know that there are others who care about them and help brainstorm some possible ideas for making healthy choices.

    I can vouch for Claire that she is NOT a professional. In fact she is one messed up lady…kidding Claire;) But she really cares for people and wants to encourage those that are hurting and answer questions that get put up here.

    If you do have any concerns that you think need to be addressed feel free to send us a note using the form at http://powertochange.com/general-contact

  • Sherry says:

    Hi Hannah;

    I don’t think they are counsellors or therapists. I think they are just here to provide support and someone to lean on.

    I have been to many therapy appointments since 13 years of age and there is only one side of the story. Therapy sessions are between the therapist and the client. Details are never given to family members or are others points of views asked outside of the client as this is a “breach of confidentiality”. I would much sooner speak to fellow Christians than to a therapist that pushes “New Age” philosophy down my throat by doing meditation, visualization and relaxation.

  • Hannah says:

    I don’t think that the Power to Change representatives should get so involved in the details of each situation nor go into their own personal stories. As a therapist I believe it is important to keep a big picture perspective. The point is simple: LOVE. Beyond that, when it comes to details, here you will hear only 1 side of the story. Stay focused on the ultimate goal.

  • Sherry says:

    Claire, thanks so much for your comments. I hate to cut it off with her b/c she’s part of my circle and it will effect other relationships, but I am tired of being treated like a child that’s done something wrong. She sent an email that said she was mad but now she’s over it (the canoeing trip) and she’s not going to let it get in the way of our friendship. I can’t help but want to set her straight. Just b/c she got mad doesn’t mean she’s right, but I don’t want to make things bigger either.

    Know I don’t look forward to our visits, time doesn’t fly by, I’m glad when I’m back home, but I do like the fact that she likes to do things, like hiking, cycling, and canoeing.

    I’m going to think about what you said. Thanks again.

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Sherry, It certainly sounds like your friend is both controlling and demanding. From what you’ve written here it sounds like she has very little concern or regard for other people. Does that sound accurate? I wonder why you would want to spend time with someone who treats you so poorly?

    It can be very difficult to break off a friendship that has been going on for a long time, but I can tell you from personal experience that getting free of a toxic friendship, while not easy, feels WONDERFUL. I used to have someone in my life who was completely draining. Anytime we did anything together she complained. If we included her she whined, if we did not include her she got very upset. She could take any fun event and ruin it. Eventually I had to take her out of my life. She kept contacting me on Facebook and phoning me – it got to the point where I was screening my calls to avoid her at which point I realized that it needed to stop. I wrote her a private message on Facebook asking her to please stop contacting me as I did not want to spend time with her in the future. Then I unfriended her. It did not feel good, but my life has improved dramatically since I did it. Life is short, far too short to spend it with people we don’t like being with. (Unless they’re family, there are special rules when it comes to family.)

    You mentioned in your comment that everyone was mad at you, and you friend was mad at you, for something that SHE did, not something that was your fault. Remember that you are not responsible for another person’s thoughts, feelings or actions. That’s key. A good friend of mine told me that years ago and it has always stayed with me. If she chooses to be upset, that’s on her, not on you. She sounds a bit like a drama queen who enjoys controlling other people with her anger and tears. That’s a very immature way for her to act.

    Take some time to honestly think about the time you spend with her. Do you laugh together? Do you feel good about yourself when you are with her? Does she listen to your stories? Does she cheer you up when you’ve had a rough day? Is she willing to help? Does she sometimes do the thing that you want to do instead? Do you come away from your time with her smiling? Does the time fly by?

    Ask yourself, if you just met her today, would she be someone that you want to be friends with? If the answer is no, then it may be time to start detangling yourself from her drama.

  • Sherry says:

    I have a friend that is controlling,but has been my friend for 20 years. I usually let her lead and go along. Lately I don’t look forward to our visits. I have to be a certain way with her and not myself. When I am myself we seem to get into it. She starts saying stuff like, well next time we play, your not going to partner with her. She’ll say this b/c we’re laughing and having fun with the game.

    Well, the same thing happened this weekend when we went canoeing. She and her family raced down the river leaving me and another friend behind. We kept telling them to slow down but they didn’t. When we got at the take-out, they were gone back to the parking lot. They waited in the hot sun b/c she asked my friend to hold her keys since she had a dry bag. So, they couldn’t drive home and had to wait. Well, she’s extremely mad about it. Cancelled the evening plans, and I had to stay in their cabin with everyone in the place pissed at me. We were going to cook out, and she said she wasn’t about to cook; everyone could fend for themselves. Anyway, I love her, but I don’t think this was respectful of our friendship. No one mentioned a time to be off the river, and they’re the ones that ran off. Am I seeing this right? I don’t know if I should defend my position or give in with an apology. Please help.

  • Bernard Bernard says:

    If there are no conflict there are no honesty in communication. Show me a relationship where there are no conflict and I will show you a relationship where everything is well hidden. But the conflicts must be resolved in the end in a healthy way

  • Doris Beck Doris says:

    Good for you Joyce for being the first person to take a step in resolving conflict in the relationship. It definitely is very liberating as you say!

  • joyce says:

    it’s liberating to do the first step of resolving a conflict. i just did. By apologizing first, the ball is on the hand of the other person now. Its up to him/her to work out ur friendship.Friendship do need tests to grow.

  • Doris Beck Doris says:

    Sounds like your friend has some personal issues that are affecting your friendship. Perhaps there is some insecurity about your friendship, or perhaps feeling threatened that you have other friends as well. People relate differently to others, some have many friends, some have just a few and some are singular and only have one close friend. It’s hard for a singular person to understand the multirelational person and that can lead to some hard feelings as well.

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    FRiendships are very important to God.
    Think of our relationship to Him in our lives.
    He said to share all things with Him, as He is our all in all.
    To build an earhtyly relationship is like this too.
    We need to work at it knowing that at times ther will be difficulty at times, but they can heal in His time.
    If you let God direct you to that relationship, then He will be with you together.

  • Tanx. With your permition, can I ask this question? IS IT NORMAL FOR A FRIEND TO BE JALOUSE IF YOU ARE HANGING WITH OTHERS PEOPLE THAM HIM/HER? WHAT MAY BE THE CAUSE OF MOOD CHANGING WITHOUT ANY FIGHT BETWEEN?
    I appreciate your support

  • Doris Beck Doris says:

    Interesting question Xolani! I don’t think that you can say that conflict in a friendship is a sign of love because there can be conflicts in many different kinds of relationships. Conflicts come because of our differences in personalities and differences in how we deal with stress in our lives. Conflict can also arise when there is a sense of entitlement in the people in the relationship. Regardless of the reason for the conflict, the relationship is always strengthened when the conflicts are resolved and not ignored.

  • Is confict in the friendship relation a sign of LOVE?

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