As we grow older and wiser, even the most long-standing friendships can be swayed by disagreements and fights. I know this, because recently I was brushed aside by an old friend after an obvious misunderstanding. It can be a painful and upsetting situation, and you’ll go off on a tangent as you re-evaluate your friendship. Ideally, if two adults can come together and resolve the misunderstandings and disagreements, a long cold war can be avoided. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, unfortunately.
If, like me, you’ve tried reaching out to clear the air but receive a cold response, what should you do? Is your friendship over?
The short answer is no, and you can still try healing the relationship. There are certain steps we can take to resolve the conflict – read on to find out what you can do.
Let your friend know you care
When my friend avoided talking to me, I reached out to tell her that I care, and that our friendship means so much to me. Sometimes we assume that they know we care, but it’s always good to let them know in person or on text or paper. A simple, ‘Hey, I value our friendship and would like to reach out to you as I haven’t heard from you in a while,’ should suffice.
Find time and a place to meet
According to Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D., a licensed counselor and professor, you should find a time and place to meet and have the discussion. Make it somewhere neutral in a public space, like a restaurant or a cafe, so you both can have a conversation without teary outbursts.
Focus on your feelings and use ‘I’ statements to express what you are feeling doubt about, or what you are thinking of about her response.
Re-examine your friendship
Reflect back on the times when you had taken your friend for granted or not offered the support they need. This will help you gain some perspectives on your friendship.
Have you always been the one to reach out and lend an ear for them to share their grouses? Do they reciprocate or just lead the conversation without giving you a chance to talk? Your yes/no answers should be able to help you check in with yourself. Another tip is to own your feelings. If they’ve been canceling your plans after spending days confirming a meet-up, it’s not OK to let it slide as feelings will simmer over time.
People endure rough changes in their lives and if their friends can’t adapt to that, then your friendship might be affected. I realised the change in our friendship was when I started walking on eggshells around her. I also realised there was an imbalance in our conversations; over time the bulk of the chats was about her grouses, and the only way I could air mine was if I could forcefully butt in.
Now, having taken all the steps above, if your friend doesn’t agree with your perspective, you may want to take a step back to re-evaluate to see if your assessment is objective. Is the friendship worth salvaging? If your friend is still angry, all you can do is to give them the space they need and be there when they are ready to move forward.