How do you decide whether to mend a friendship that has struck a rough patch or call it quits?
Because conflict is difficult, it can be tempting to avoid it altogether, especially when life feels overwhelming in other ways. However, there is already a crisis of loneliness, and scientific data makes the need for connection repair much more urgent.
The author Lydia Denworth stated in her book, “Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond,” “It actually is a matter of life and death.” “It is encoded in our genetic makeup and wiring. Because of this, friendship is a necessity that is essential to our capacity for success and happiness.
It may be time to resolve resentments and misunderstandings if you’ve lost touch with close pals or drifted apart in the last year. Consider the labor at hand as a type of self- and relationship-care, as being mired in conflict depletes vital resources.
Here are five strategies for ending a toxic friendship or for mending one.
1. Think about it and list the positives.
Take a moment to think before engaging in a challenging talk with a friend. Adam Smiley Poswolksy, the author of “Friendship in the Age of Loneliness,” advised, “Think of a specific moment that this friendship has brought you joy or excitement.” Poswolsky recommended utilizing that recollection as motivation to jot down qualities you value in a buddy. In his interaction with the friend, he also advocated sharing that list.
“The conversation will be much more meaningful if you start the communication repair from a place of gratitude and positivity,” he suggested.
Whatever happens, the good intent will continue. Poswolsky stated that showing appreciation will go a long way toward fostering empathy and understanding, even if there is still tension and you still need to take a temporary break from spending time together.
2. Opt for an alternative mode of communication
Try a fresh form of communication if your typical tech channels haven’t been successful in making repairs. “People are overjoyed to receive mail that is neither a bill or a catalog. Poswolsky advised sending more postcards, letters, or books to people you believe they’d like.
Additionally, he offered a more in-depth suggestion: “Try sending letters to each other before you talk. Include in your letter your thoughts on the awkwardness of the relationship and your desire to mend it.
You can develop empathy and communication abilities by using this strategy. “You might come to understand that your friend was going through something you were unaware of. Before you ever sit down to chat to each other, you’ll start the crucial skill of listening, Poswolsky said.
3. Wait a little before trying again.
Because everyone handles conflict differently, keep in mind that you might need to give a friendship some breathing room before trying again.
Friendships may need some time to return to normal after a fight, according to Maria Franco, a psychologist and friendship expert in Washington, DC, and any lingering uncomfortable feelings may need further care.
If it’s still awkward, this can imply that not everyone had the opportunity to express their viewpoint and feel heard, said Franco.
Franco advised using an open and positive tone, such as, “Hey! Since we had a disagreement, I’ve felt like something is a little odd. Given how much I cherish our friendship, I’d really like to get things back on track. I wanted to start the discussion to see if there was anything more we needed to clear up.
Additionally, keep in mind that you are limited to your abilities. “If the friend decides not to fix it, you should feel happy of yourself for acting morally. Keep in mind that you have no influence over other individuals, but you did the best you could,” Franco remarked.
4. Rearrange the ‘friendship furnishings’
Long-lasting friendships might be difficult when we become fixated on memories of past interactions. The truth is that when our circumstances and priorities change, so do we all.
Denworth advised thinking about if you can continue friends in a more informal fashion if you have tried to mend a friendship but do not believe that things can return to how they were before the disagreement.
Denworth stated, “I call it moving the furniture in your social life. “It’s okay if a friendship doesn’t last a lifetime. According to evolutionary biologists, strong relationships need to be cooperative, good, and long-lasting. All three are required.
5. Pay attention to warning signs
Miscommunication can sometimes cause a friendship to suffer, but other times the issues are much more serious.
Franco urged people to avoid letting a single disagreement destroy a bond, and she observes this in her own work. Conflict expresses shared investment and provides an opportunity to reevaluate and strengthen a friendship. Don’t abandon your friendships just because a problem has come up, Franco said.
Franco did, however, suggest spotting warning signs. “If you step back from the friendship and see that it’s causing more harm than good, for example, your friend isn’t supporting your success, bullies you, is careless, or you feel exhausted or misunderstood by them… it might be time to end instead of mend,” Franco added.
It is critical to assess the relative importance of good and harm. According to research on friendship, ambivalent connections are bad for our health. In other words, if there is too much evil, the good may not always balance the bad, according to Denworth. A buddy once advised me, “Be honest with yourself about the health of a friendship and don’t stick with it just for old times’ sake if it’s otherwise hurting you.”
Approaching uncomfortable or painful conversations frequently drops to the bottom of our to-do lists when life is challenging. Human connection is essential, therefore it’s time to accept the uncomfortable, be genuine, pay attention, and engage.