4 Ways to Confront a Friend without Cutting them Off
Did you ever notice how we along with others have a tendency to act differently when we are at home surrounded by family? It may be hard to admit sometimes, but when anger rears that nasty head, we may become less than desirable to some. Would you confront your spouse or family member the same way you would a close friend? My guess is probably not. There is this unwritten rule that we can only let our “crazy” out in certain settings with very specific people. This assumption makes the thought of confronting a friend daunting.
Since family members and spouses are bound to us by blood or law, there’s an unspoken sense of security with the relationship. The unconditional love provided by these relationships reassures us that we can be honest, and express those unfiltered emotions when we are upset. Friendships on the other hand, are relationships formed by choice. Since friends can leave whenever they want, without explanation, we need to make sure we are handling conflicts in a more productive way.
So, how do you have an uncomfortable conversation with a friend that has upset you while keeping your cool?
- Be prepared. Assess the situation and figure out what exactly upset you. Sometimes we get upset about things that we really can’t explain. If you can’t explain why you’re upset, chances are that they won’t understand why you’re upset either. It’s never a good idea to have these conversations during a heated moment. Try waiting at least 24 hours so you can get some clarity and put your thoughts together. Waiting a day or so also allows you to make sure that your reaction matches the size of the problem. If you act in the heat of the moment, there will probably be a tendency to overreact….and that’s going to lead to further problems. After a day or so, reach out to your friend and schedule a time to meet.
- Be an assertive communicator. This does not mean you have to be harsh and nasty. This means that you should be using “I statements.” Using “I statements” allows you to objectively present your case. For example, you might say something like, “I feel upset when you keep cancelling our plans at the last minute.” You should be focused on presenting your feelings and thoughts regarding their behavior. This helps to keep the conversation focused on a specific incident, and it allows your friend to hear that his or her behavior impacted you. It’s perfectly normal to feel vulnerable during this.
- Be an active listener. This is your opportunity to hear them out. Chances are that your friend didn’t mean to upset you. This can be a vulnerable time for your friend as well. Your friend’s response will provide you with key information regarding how they value your friendship.
- Embrace the discomfort. If these skills are new to you, it takes a while to get comfortable having these conversations. Allow yourself to be okay with the discomfort or awkwardness. If the conversation goes well, don’t be weird with your friend! Talk about the event or outing that you both have coming up. This allows your friend to know that you are still committed to the friendship, and that things do not need to stay awkward. If the conversation doesn’t go as well as you would have liked, that’s okay too. Sometimes both parties need a few days to process the information. Just thank your friend for hearing you out, and say that you’ll talk in a few days.
Over time, this skillset does become more comfortable. These conversations will provide you with great insight regarding the strength of your friendships. Some friendships may not be as strong as you thought, and that’s okay. Expressing your feelings is part of any healthy relationship, familial or not. A true friend will hear you out and respect what you have to say. If you’re sweeping things under the rug regularly, it may be time to explore new friendships.
Bottom line: Know why you’re upset and how to present your case. Speak clearly using “I statements.” Allow your friend to share their perspective as well.