Your story, my story and somewhere in the middle is the truth.
It was a day I had dreamed of since I was a little girl. My wedding was a few months away and I found the perfect dress. I posted an Instagram photo of me saying “yes to the dress” with my bridesmaids and family, including a caption of how much the women huddled around meant to me. A few hours later, I look down at my phone and see a text informing me that I forgot to invite one of my bridesmaids to go shopping. Needless to say, I felt terrible.
Conflict in friendships is a tricky thing to navigate. Learning how to disagree with friends is scary. You want to feel accepted and a part of a group and yet you also want to be true to yourself. Sometimes being true to yourself makes you at odds with others. In some circumstances, you make decisions that cause unintentional harm and unless confronted, you’d have no idea that you hurt someone’s feelings.
Arguments and disagreements are healthy for relationships. They offer opportunities to build trust and a gain a deeper understanding of who another person is. Engaging in healthy conflict requires vulnerability, the ability to engage in awkward and uncomfortable conversations and working toward understanding another’s point of view. Working through conflict doesn’t need to be complicated, and the more you do it, the less intimidating it becomes. Practicing self-awareness, and a honing in on a few communication skills takes away the fear of confrontation damaging a relationship, and allows you to see the opportunities it brings for growth and deeper connection.
There’s a great analogy that describes four main responses to conflict:
If we go back and look at the different types of responses to conflict, there are a few different ways my friend could have responded to my Instagram post.
I’m one of those people who hate it when someone is mad at me. So when I realized I had left my friend out of such an important event I immediately went into fix it mode. Quickly I sent her a long text saying how sorry I was, how I assumed she felt hurt and that my mistake did not reflect how I felt about our friendship. Looking back, if I could go back and respond differently, I would pick up the phone and call her. She deserved a conversation and a personal apology. In my text to her, I assumed how she must have felt and what she thought about me and my intentions. In reality, I wish I would have given her the opportunity tell me how it felt when she saw the photo. It would have given her the space to ask questions or express any hurt feelings, and I wouldn’t have spent the next week worried she secretly resented me.
Just like any skill, practice makes perfect. Well, in the case of relationships nothing is perfect, but these tools will strengthen your relationships when things get messy.
Damour, Lisa. “How to Help Tweens and Teens Manage Social Conflict (Published 2019).” The New York Times, 16 January 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/16/well/family/how-to-help-tweens-and-teens-manage-social-conflict.html?auth=link-dismiss-google1tap. Accessed 7 April 2022.
Segal, Jeanne, et al. “Conflict Resolution Skills.” HelpGuide.org, October 2020, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/conflict-resolution-skills.htm. Accessed 13 April 2022.
WRITTEN BY Kinsey Eix (she/her/hers)