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Conflicts with Friends: 13 Ways to Communicate Without Drama

“Treat your friends like you do your best pictures; place them in the best light.” ~Unknown

I recently had a disagreement with a close friend.

There was a good deal of uncontrolled emotion on my side. I wasn’t expressing myself well and I knew it. I became more and more frustrated and less effective at explaining my feelings.

I found myself laying unwarranted blame on my friend rather than admitting openly that something was hurting me and I was feeling vulnerable.

Ultimately, he said the words I was having trouble finding for me, and that resolved the situation.

I was embarrassed and grateful, but I realized I needed to evaluate a few of my shortcomings to avoid making the same mistake again.

I also realized that what I was feeling wasn’t the problem.

It was my inability to effectively convey what was in my heart and on my mind that led to hurt feelings and further misunderstanding.

After much self examination, I’ve come up with a few tips to communicate effectively during a conflict.

Consider the timing of the conversation.

1. Think about whether this needs to be said right now, in this moment. Sometimes the opportunity will be missed if not.

In my case, I felt I needed to bring the subject up right then or I might not have gotten the nerve again. I went for it, but it could have gone better if I’d waited to form a well organized idea of what I wanted to say.

2. Think about the other person’s state of mind. Is he/she tired, under other stress, or not in an ideal place right now to have a heartfelt talk?

3. Consider if you have a good handle on your emotions and have the proper perspective to deal with the potential consequences. Email, texts, and cell phone calls are not an ideal way to introduce the need to talk about something substantial.

4. Hold off on the confrontation if you feel the time is not right. There is a marked difference in avoiding a hard topic and thoughtfully planning the ideal time to have a potentially difficult conversation.

 

Breathe, step back, and listen.

5. Focus on breathing to help control your emotions. If you begin a difficult conversation starting from a place of controlled emotion and grace, the path will be smoother.

6. Keep your perspective broad and realistic. Don’t place too much importance on a single talk. Most of the progress in relationships comes from a series of discussions as they unravel naturally. Try and stay in the moment and minimize added drama by bringing up old or irrelevant issues.

7. Listen more than you talk. It’s fine to be heard, but if you are not listening to the other’s response, the discussion is pointless.

8. Avoid adding unnecessary drama. These things never help to fix a problem and ultimately bring more hurt to all involved. These include, ultimatums, yelling, threatening to cut off the friendship, name calling, and personal attacks.

If it comes to that, walk away. Breathe, step back and allow some time before you try again.

Separate the other person’s words and emotions.

9. Focus on what the person is trying to communicate. I’m often reminded as a parent to listen to my children’s words and not necessarily the emotion behind them. Emotions are fleeting, and rarely final. They are simply a temporary reaction to the current situation.

My 3 year old sometimes throws temper tantrums when she’s frustrated, but if I listen and respond to her words, it often diffuses her anger. Many times she is telling me she is not feeling heard as the youngest member of our family. I focus on the simple phrase, “Mommy! Listen to me!” Not her screaming voice and kicking feet.

10. Acknowledge the feelings. If you acknowledge that someone is angry or hurt, you can better understand the sharp or harsh words that may be coming from them. You can choose to help them deal with their emotions or let them regain their composure to talk another time.

Realize your emotions affect how you interpret what you hear.

11. Take a realistic assessment of your true feelings in the moment.

I tend to distort and add unintended nuances to the words that others say when I am upset. This has caused me a great deal of distress in past conflicts. I am not on the wrong page, but in the wrong book sometimes metaphorically speaking.

After such experiences, I find the other person saying “How did you come to that conclusion from what I said?”

This is a classic example of our ability to inflict the worst hurts upon ourselves.

If I realize that I am upset, and try to hear the words being said to me as they are, without my running mental commentary, things come across much clearer.

12. Clear the emotional fog enough to receive the message. If you need to ask for clarification or even repeat what you think the other person is trying to say, so be it.

Trust in the strength of your relationships.

13. Know that most well established relationships can weather the occasional conflict just fine. It can even be an opportunity to grow and evolve as you turn a new corner of understanding one another.

The friend I argued with is the best kind. He challenges me to broaden my perspective. He is relentless in keeping me from settling and expecting too little from life. He pushes me out of the nest over and over when I get too comfortable.

Don’t avoid expressing how you feel for the sake of preserving a friendship.

The foundation of all relationships is grounded on honesty and trust. It’s OK to show weakness, to be wrong, or to just plain melt down from time to time. Each person has something to give and something to learn. Conflict might be considered the way to pass along such knowledge.

I am fortunate my friend knew me well and was willing to give me space and offer forgiveness. The next time I have something to say, I will try to remember this and be more straightforward.

Every challenge with another is a chance to better our response. They give us the chance to practice patience, respect for others, detachment, and compassion. The added benefit is strengthening our relationships and our ability to communicate.

Photo by celebdu

Avatar of Nicole Franco

About Nicole Franco

Nicole Franco is an emerging freelance fiction writer seeking representation for her first novel. She enjoys family, horses, travel, reading, photography, and making others laugh. To read more of her writing or hire her for freelance work, visit francowrites.com.

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  • http://twitter.com/mayasaputra Maya Saputra

    once again, article from Tiny Buddha came in the right time :))

  • http://infjcoach.wordpress.com/ Melinda

    Lovely post, Nicole – your tips contain so much love and wisdom! I’d add a reverse of separating the other’s words and emotions – sometimes the emotion is what’s real and the words are “noise.” I think that there are times when what we’re upset about is a mystery even to us and we can pick a random complaint as our platform to express what we feel.

    Thank you!

    Melinda

  • Nicole Franco

    good point Melinda. Thanks for the kind words :)

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  • Roland

    This was great wisdom and is going to help me in tons of ways. The ebook is sensational soon to be one of my many bibles

  • http://www.facebook.com/rachelwhalley Rachel Carroll Whalley

    So true, Nicole. Great steps that you’ve put into here.

    I especially like that you said, “Don’t avoid expressing how you feel for the sake of preserving a friendship.”

    I’m realizing that I, and many women I know, do just that. We think, oh I shouldn’t be angry because he/she didn’t mean to say that. We talk ourselves into believing things “aren’t a big deal” rather than have conversations of conflict. And the ultimate result of that is resentment, which leads to suppressed anger, which can lead to severing of relationship.

    This is a really common relationship pattern, especially among Good Girls (women who are nice, polite, thoughtful, and yet also emotional overfunctioners and avoiders of conflict). I’ll be sharing this article with my Facebook community of Good Girls (www.healingforgoodgirls.com) because this article hits on so many aspects of what we’re learning to work on.

    Thanks again!

  • Cocoa Popps

    I like this post, but find it hard to apply with women. (Notice the photo shows a man and woman.) I’ve never been able to have drama free conflicts with women, no matter how calm and compassionate I’ve attempted to be. But I guess the issue is the maturity of the people involved. I wanted to have this kind of conversation with a new friend but knew she would become defensive and attacking (as she’s done before) so I didn’t even attempt this approach. It would be great if we could all resolve our conflicts and preserve relationships worth saving this way.

  • Nicole Franco

    Well Popps, in my experience I have to work harder to control my emotions than my male friend. I’m not sure if it’s maturity, practice or simply the value of our friendship to me, that has helped me evolve. But believe me, I still have my moments where I need to take my own advice. Thanks for the comment and don’t give up :)

  • Nicole Franco

    Thank you Rachel! I have held my voice for many years in order to keep the peace. Now I know, peace comes from being heard and understood. I am quite lucky to have stumbled upon a friendship that taught me that.

  • sad in ny

    Where was this post when I exploded on a friend a month ago? What started as a calm discussion rapidly escalated (for me) to a full blown rage.
    I somewhat realized in the moment that I was overreacting, but could not contain myself. Reflecting on those harsh emotions in the days afterward, I realized I had a deep well of untapped anger from my childhood that had found an unfortunate victim.
    Our friendship is struggling (I’ve apologized profusely) & I’m back in therapy. If I lose this friendship, it will be a huge price to pay for this lesson.

  • http://lifeisnotamovie.net Robin

    2 things I always try to do when these situations happen: I try to put myself in their shoes and imagine how they view the situation and I try to take 24 hours (or sometimes a weekend) to calm down over something before discussing it. I wish my friend who I had a falling out with would have done as much.

  • Mikeysgirlonly

    I really enjoyed the post and my husband agreed to read it if I email it to him. This is neither one of ours first marriage and neither one of us our very good at communicating during a conflict. This article made some very clear points for us to utilize during conflicts. Thanx for the post. We plan to keep reading. In Michigan, Mike and Julie

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  • Nicole Kiefer

    Nice post! I like most of the ideas given in the article. Last year my childhood friend had a relationship with a guy she was really happy with .. I’d say TOO happy maybe, because from the day they met, she started to gain weight so so fast (How about 25 kilograms in two months?!). When her boyfriend broke up with her for some reason, she got depressed and gained even more weight than before. I didn’t know how to handle the situation, because I didn’t want her to feel ashamed or rejected if I told her. I talked to some friends and my parents about that problem. But in the end it was a life coach who helped me out of my (and her) miserable situation. I found the coach on Your24hCoach which is basically a website where you can find professionals specialized in different areas. You can consult them directly over the internet via live- or voice-chat. He helped me approach her in the correct way, so she wouldn’t get hurt. I’m very thankful for that and advise consulting a coach when you see no other possibility to solve a problem!

  • Suz

    Great post, needed this today. Thanks!! :)

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