I stared at my best friend. What I would say next? She fidgeted, and I looked away. I wanted nothing more than to bring up a funny story or an old inside joke, turning both our minds away from our problem.
We had hurt each other. My friend didn’t feel supported in her new relationship with her boyfriend, and I felt she no longer made time to hang out. Months ago, I realized our friendship had become tinged with awkwardness, the unspoken offenses lingering beside each laugh. Now, that nagging speculation prompted me to speak before the problem sideswiped our friendship.
Every relationship bumps along the road of life. Relationships, even the ones that seem strong and unbreakable, can stall or run out of gas. When this happens, taking a step away from the confusion is not only essential but necessary if you want the relationship to survive. Miscommunication or misunderstandings create issues that, if left unresolved, could wreck any good relationship. If a friendship begins to feel strained or uncomfortable, consider confronting your friend about your feelings.
Though navigating a confrontation with a friend may not be easy, these five road signs to traversing a conflict will help you steer this conversation in the right direction.
Road Sign #1: Identify
Recognize and identify the particular emotion you’re feeling: anger, sadness, offense or something else. Realizing what you are feeling and why will help you better understand the problem. There are many relationship books out there offering advice and guidance about strengthening an injured relationship.
David filled the Psalms with diary entries of heartbreak, betrayal and tears formed into words. In Psalms 143:4 (NIV) David writes, “My spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.” He realized the importance of recognizing and understanding how he felt about certain situations.
Before I met with my friend, I examined what I felt and why. My discovery? In her exuberance for dating her first boyfriend, she made less time for me, making me feel less important to her.
Road Sign #2: Process
Make time to process your feelings. I process my feelings and experiences through writing, so journaling what I felt and what happened with my friend helped me.
Processing looks different for everybody. Some effective activities might include taking a day off for some “retail shopping” or scheduling a day for sports and recreational activities. If those or other activities don’t help you process, visiting a counselor or therapist provides a safe atmosphere for you to understand what happened or identify reasons for your feelings.
The goal: to understand what happened and your resulting emotions.
A major step in processing your emotions is forgiveness. Forgiving your friend before the confrontation will help prevent a heated conversation filled with accusations and more hurt. It provides you with release from the expectations of your friend’s apology and validation. You are free from the hurt, even without the apology.
Jesus commanded the disciples to forgive one another 70 times seven times, a total of 490 pardons (Matthew 18:21-22, NIV). He suggested the merciful love of a believer should be infinite, incessant. Of course, like many aspects of life, forgiveness usually does not come easily.
Forgiveness is a decision. You choose to accept the hurt while not denying yourself the pain or dismissing the wrong, and then forgive the person in your heart.
While on the cross dying, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV). His love moved beyond the physical and emotional betrayal of his people and extended toward forgiveness and grace. Imitate Jesus and do a little forgiving of your own.
Road Sign #3: Locate
Find a good time and place for both of you. A quiet atmosphere will lend a feeling of comfort and safety to share your heart. Carving out adequate time to discuss the problem will prevent rushing through thoughts and causing even more miscommunication.
For my confrontation with my friend, we talked over dinner at a nearby café. The calm location provided a place to settle into our discussion without feeling bad for lingering too long at the restaurant.
Road Sign #4: Talk
Now for the hard and honest part. Let your friend know how you feel.
Try the sandwich-breakup method: positive, negative, positive. Tearing down a friend or placing all the blame on someone else’s shoulders will not resolve the issue. Kindness and honesty will.
Keep in mind how your friend might be feeling. Everybody knows two sides exist to every story, so give your friend a chance to state her side. Take responsibility for your part in the disagreement. My friend told me how she felt unsupported in her new relationship. I accepted my part in the disagreement and apologized. Admitting that I wounded my friend validated her feelings and helped her feel understood.
Road Sign #5: Pursue
Continue to pursue the friendship in a normal, nonthreatening way. Initially, you may feel awkward around each other, but the confrontation should help deepen your relationship and trust with each other. The two-way street of relationships requires your drive to revive and maintain your friendship.
My friend and I walked away from that conversation with a deeper and richer relationship because of the truth told and the path cleared. After hearing her side and speaking my mind, we learned to empathize and better understand each other. Now, I know speaking up helps a relationship more than holding my tongue ever could.