(by Dawson McAllister)
Do you find yourself playing second fiddle to your teen’s friends all of a sudden? Do you find your teen’s mood rises and falls with how well their friendships are going? Do you find them struggling to navigate what can be difficult and drama-filled relationships?
Let’s face it…friendships in middle school and high school are often both the most important thing in our kid’s life and the most difficult.
I have counseled many people on my radio show who call in because they feel as if they have lost their best friend due to some sort of conflict. This is a heartbreaking situation at any stage of life. Learning early on how to manage these situations could be life changing.
Here are five tips I share with my listeners about what to do when their best friend is mad at them, so that they can mend a friendship:
- Talk it out. When your best friend is mad at you, the first and most important thing you can do is talk about it. Find a place where it’s quiet and tell your friend how important it is to you that the two of you resolve what’s wrong between you. Ask what he/she is feeling, and give them the chance to truly express everything on their heart…whatever they want. At this point, it’s your job to listen. Really listen and don’t break in with your point of view. The more you can feel what your friend is feeling, the better chance you’ll have of fixing your conflict.
- Don’t Get Defensive. The worst thing you can do is get defensive when resolving a conflict with your best friend. Don’t quickly react to what your friend is saying. When you hear your friend telling you what he/she thinks you did wrong, it’s natural to immediately feel like you want to defend yourself. Resist that feeling. Remember, there will be time enough for you to express how you feel as well. Don’t forget this is your time to listen. This is not a sign of agreeing, it is just a sign of listening!
- Ask What You Can Do. It may take a while for your friend to express everything he/she feels. Some people have a much more difficult time talking about their emotions than others. As your friend tells you what they’re feeling, make sure they are completely finished before you start to talk. I suggest you start by repeating back to your friend what you heard him/her say. For instance, “Am I right you’re angry that I was unkind to you? Is that right?” This gives you both the opportunity to make sure each of you heard what the other said.
The next thing you might want to ask is “What can I do to help mend the relationship?” Many times, your friend will have an idea of what they’d like you to do. At this point, you can decide if you’re willing to do what he/she thinks would help to resolve the situation. Keep in mind, your hurt friend may have a totally unrealistic solution to the problem. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. For example, if she says, “I never want you to talk to my boyfriend again.” Don’t commit to that, for it is totally unrealistic, and unfair. You might find it helpful to say, “I don’t think I can do what you’re asking, but I could do this.” Finding an agreeable middle ground is a great way to make peace with an angry friend.
- Be Willing to Admit You’re Wrong. If it becomes clear you have done something truly wrong, you need to take responsibility for your actions. It’s easy to think just saying I’m sorry is enough. But those words can seem very shallow if you don’t mean them. If you are truly sorry, you need to apologize, and then prove you will attempt to never do it again. Clearly ask your friend to forgive you. Make sure you hear the words, I will forgive you before you assume all is well with your friend.However, your friend may be slow to trust you again, even after you have apologized. He/she will need to see trustworthy behavior from you over a period of time this will prove to her you really are sorry.
- Give It Time. If your friend doesn’t want to talk about what is making him/her so mad, you may have to just give it time. Sometimes the only way to resolve a problem is by letting time pass. Be patient, and keep trying to be a good friend, even if he or she doesn’t want to respond.
All of these lessons are really in line with Romans 12:16-18
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Every relationship will hit a speed bump at one time or another. Teaching the teens in our lives how to work through misunderstandings and hurt feelings without overreacting will help them throughout their lives.
Click this link to download TheHopeLine’s resourceful eBook about understanding friendship.