Disagreements and conflicts are a fact of life. This is because no two people are the same or always think alike. For example, you may be an outgoing leader, while your friend is shy and tends to follow the group. Personality differences cause people to see and experience the world around them in different ways. Sometimes these different perspectives can lead to conflict.
Dealing with conflict is not pleasant or easy. However, if you learn to deal with disagreements you are more likely to have deep and longer lasting friendships. Here are some ideas on how to deal effectively with conflicts in a friendship:
- Talk the situation over with the person you had the disagreement with. Try not to get others involved because this can lead to gossip and make things even more confusing. Before you know it everyone will be taking sides and everyone will be mad at each other. This could lead to an even bigger and longer lasting conflict and ultimately to the loss of friendships.
- Allow for a cooling down period. It's a good idea to take some time after a disagreement before you try to talk it over and resolve your differences. You will both be able to think more clearly and will be less likely to react out of anger. Be careful not too leave the problem unresolved for too long. If possible, try to talk about the problem the same day it happens.
- Try to understand your friend's perspective. Try to relate to their feelings as if they were your own. No one is perfect and everyone has traits that can irritate us. Try to keep in mind what you liked about your friend in the first place.
- Express yourself honestly and gently. If you approach the discussion in a gentle and sensitive manner, chances are your friend will be more open to hearing what you have to say and will also discuss the issue in the same manner. It also helps to state your feelings in the beginning of your statement. For example, it's easier for your friend to understand why you are upset if you say, "I felt left out when you walked off with Sharyn and Rahim this morning and you didn't wait for me." Rather than saying, "You walked off with Sharyn and Rahim and left me behind." The second statement does not allow your friend to understand why the action was a problem for you.
- Show sensitivity and caring by giving your friend the time and space to talk while you listen, and respond sympathetically to their feelings even if you don't agree with your friend's view. For example, you could say something like "I'm sorry you felt left behind. I didn't think it would bother you because I told you yesterday that I had to get to school early today, and I left because you weren't ready yet." If you are not sure what exactly was so upsetting for your friend it helps to ask gently.
- Explore solutions if appropriate. After both of you have had a chance to share your perspectives and feelings, try offering a solution and/or asking your friend if they have any thoughts on how to resolve the issue.
- Agree to disagree. If after trying to talk things out, the two of you just cannot agree, you can let your friend know that despite this you still want to be friends. Agreeing to disagree may be the best way to show that you still value the friendship despite your different points of view.
- Apologize and forgive if you can. It may be hard, but try to be the first person to say sorry for your part in the conflict. Doing this may encourage your friend to apologize for their part. Forgiving your friend can help you both move on and have a stronger friendship.
Last checked: March 2010