We’re back on the friendship season in this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions. This time, I delve into the topic of conflict in friendships. How confident do you feel about raising an issue with a friend? If you avoid talking about what’s on your mind for fear that the friendship will end or you do speak up, but feel as if it always backfires, you’re not alone. The two resounding messages about broaching, managing or resolving conflict in friendships were:

I’m afraid that if I speak up on an issue, the friendship will end.

No matter how I approach it, they react badly and the friendship doesn’t survive.

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In this episode I share:
  • Why fear of being abandoned by our friends represents a trust and intimacy issue.
  • The contributing factors that lead to prolonged awkwardness or an ending after conflict in friendships.
  • Tips for evolving our relationship with conflict so that we don’t have to feel caught between a rock and a hard place.

Some nuggets from the episode:

  • We all need to learn to be OK with conflict. Not all-singing and dancing, but OK with experiencing it. Broaching issues, dealing and overcoming — it’s how we (and our relationships) grow. We need to be OK with the possibility of conflict occurring in our life. This is not because we need to be in conflict all the time, though (that’s a problem in itself)! We need to know on a personal level that we can step up and speak up when we need to. This is how we know that we have healthy boundaries. We also need to know that if and when something arises, that we are prepared to speak up.
  • If we’re afraid of being abandoned if we speak up about an issue with a friend, this represents trust issues. We either know that this is not a viable friendship and that we’re basically delaying the inevitable, or they have earned our trust but we don’t trust ourselves. Either way, we don’t have our own back. This damages the intimacy and integrity of the relationship because we’re unable to be honest and authentic.
  • The questions we need to ask ourselves when we opt for silence instead of addressing an issue with a friend are:
    • Firstly, how is me saying nothing affecting the way I show up?
    • How is my silence affecting the integrity of the relationship?
    • If I say nothing, what will continue?
  • Tone, language, approach, timing — these have a significant impact on the outcome of a conflict situation.
  • We have to acknowledge that even if we use a nice tone to deliver bad news, we’re still delivering bad news!

  • If you address an issue with someone who always casts themselves as the victim in every situation, you will become their persecutor.
  • How long an issue existed for prior to us broaching the subject has an impact on how the other party will perceive our disclosure of the issue.
  • You know those people who can’t stay in a relationship beyond the honeymoon period or who bolt at the first sign of conflict? Well, some people are like this with friendships. That means that even if it takes twenty-five years for an issue to be raised, they will exit stage left rather than resolve.
  • Sometimes an issue (or what we think it says about them or the friendship) means that it’s the correct outcome for the friendship to end.

  • There’s a difference between a misunderstanding or concern in a healthy friendship, and those situations presenting themselves in a not-so-healthy friendship.
  • It’s OK for someone to feel upset or even angry after we tell them about our unhappiness with something they’ve said or done. Just because we’re the ones with the issue doesn’t mean that we’re the only ones who get to feel.
  • When we get clear on what we want, what we’re asking of a friend when we broach an issue, we can get clear on our intentions and motivations.
    • What do we want them to do? It bears thinking about!
    • What needs to change going forward?
    • What is the purpose of us telling them [about the issue]?
      • It’s critical to remember that it’s about what’s right for the relationship not who’s right. If our intention is to tell them so that they feel bad or so that they feel obliged to change [into who we want them to be], we might need to check ourselves.
  • If someone has no interest in changing problematic behaviour that’s impinging on our friendship with them, our wishes don’t matter.

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