On the Importance of Conflict in Friendship

Do you find yourself in the midst of a stormy conflict with a friend? Are you worried that your friendship cannot withstand the stress of a conflict? What if you don’t bring up your concerns, then what?

It can be hard to suddenly realize you have entered into conflict with a friend. You might have been peacefully sailing along for years in your friendship and suddenly find yourselves in this uncharted water. Now what? Well, short of abandoning ship, you have many options. And you will learn a lot about yourself, your friend and your friendship as you navigate this new and unfamiliar territory.

Generally, conflict is unsettling. It can feel confusing, sad, and scary. Growing up, we all learn different ways to view and deal with conflict. We learn how to handle conflict from our parents, our family, our teachers and schools.

Conflict does not necessarily mean your friendship is over. On the contrary, conflict can be an opportunity for change and growth in relationships, every relationship, rather than being a bad thing or the end of a friendship. In fact, resolving a conflict effectively usually brings people closer.

For some of us, avoidance of conflict in friendships is our approach of choice. We might fear the outcome. We might be uncomfortable with what we believe will happen. We might prefer having a tooth pulled to the discomfort conjured by conflict! Whatever the reason, many people avoid conflict.

The thing is, avoiding it does not make the conflict go away. It does make the issue go unaddressed which can lead to simmering resentment and an erosion of trust in the friendship. Yet we have to pick our battles, so to speak. It might not serve your friendship to get into a conflict over every difference of opinion.

Treat your friends like you do your best pictures; place them in the best light.” ~ Jennie Jerome Churchill

Some strategies and tips for managing conflict with a friend:

An important mindset that can be a helpful approach to conflict with a friend is to be respectful — of your friend, yourself and your relationship. Create the intention that you will be respectful in your conversation about the conflict.

Listen fully and quietly to your friend’s opinions, thoughts and concerns — without thinking of what you will say in response. Simply listen.

Prepare what you want to say or share – use I statements and address the behaviour or action that is causing the conflict for you.

Try to see your friend’s perspective. This can be very challenging. Particularly if your friend’s perspective is one you have difficulty imagining. Sometimes these differences are deal-breakers. Sometimes not. Is there a difference in values or beliefs that you can respect in each other while still staying connected?

Share your feelings while keeping your emotions regulated. If you find yourself heating up, can you ask for a break and return to the conversation once you have cooled off?

Talk about your deal-breakers – identify the issues and values that are important to each of you. Knowing them, sharing them, talking about them and communicating when there has been a trespass can mean the difference between a positive and negative ending in a friendship.

It is through resolving conflict that understanding and trust in a friendship build and deepen.

Have you been putting off facing an issue in a friendship?
How will you approach conflict in a friendship?
If you know your friend has an issue with you, how will you raise it?



2 thoughts on “On the Importance of Conflict in Friendship

  1. Amy and Ruth,

    Just wanted to say that this is brilliant!!!

    You both have done a stellar job with this piece.

    Kudo’s to you both, Judy

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