Friendly Feuds: How to Resolve a Sensitive Issue

During the course of our relationships with our loved ones, we may come face-to-face with conflict. At times, the issue is trivial and tends to get sorted on its own, whereas during other moments, the conflict may become difficult to push past without resolve. At this point, how you choose to work through the issue determines the future of your relationship.

For instance, let’s say that you have a close friend whose son is your child’s age and during playtime, your friend’s son bullies your child behind closed doors. If you hold the friendship close, addressing this issue without causing offence can be a challenge, because you’ve got the best interests of your child in mind, but you also want to let your friend in on what’s troubling you as gently as you can. Resolving this issue in a calm manner require a great deal of care and understanding.

Conflict Resolution:

When resolving conflict, three factors matter: your perspective, the other person’s perspective, and the objective/third-person perspective. It’s easy to stray from the problem and judge someone’s characteristics – doing this will only deviate your focus and will keep you from resolving the issue. Here’s a few tips and steps to keep in mind when addressing a conflict situation:

  1. Awareness: We often hold back on having important conversations because things get awkward. Speak your mind to your friend and let them know how you feel as gently as possible. You’d be surprised at how well they take it and help you put the issue at rest.
  2. Positivity: Start and end the topic with something positive, like “Our friendship is important to me...”. Do not attack the person with phrases such as “You do this” or “It’s your fault”. Bring it up as a team issue with phrases like “I feel that…” or “Together, we can address this…”
  3. Understanding: Ask them if they understand where you’re coming from and give them a chance to voice their thoughts. This will help sort things out objectively.
  4. Teamwork: Work together towards a solution, but set boundaries. For instance, if someone keeps criticising your parenting, avoid a sticky mess with a phrase like “Let’s agree not to go there with each other, and focus on…”.
  5. Stay Calm: Beware of emotional triggers, body language and changes in your voice. Do not bring up conflict resolution when you’re angry – this will hamper rational thinking.
  6. Compromise: Accept that the other person’s perspective may be different, but not wrong. Understand each other’s opinions and be willing to meet halfway.

What if you disagree with each other?

It’s okay if you agree to disagree, so long as it does not infringe on values, self-respect or cause harm in the long run. However, if someone constantly denies your feelings and doesn’t do their bit to resolve an impending issue, it would be wise to consider reducing the time spent with this person. The distance might help them understand your perspective.

What if there is no resolution?

It’s about weighing the issue against your relationship – if the gravity of the issue outweighs the relationship’s benefits, why not direct your effort and time towards more fulfilling endeavours and relationships? However, sometimes just letting the other person know how you feel, is good enough for you to move on from the problem and feel good about how you handled it, thus focusing on healthier parts of the relationship.

Alternatively, if the unresolved issue continues to weigh you down, you could consider bringing in a mediator to help you and your friend see things objectively. This could be a friend or family member you rely on, or a trained professional such as a life coach or mentor.

Leila Almaeena