As a relationship coach, I help people navigate the waters of romance and teach skills that can be useful in all of our life's relationships.
Many people erroneously assume that a 'good' relationship should be conflict-free, and at the first sign of a disagreement, they want to lace up their Nikes and RUN. But being in any authentic relationship will inevitably come with some conflict. Whether it's a significant other, friend, family member, child, neighbor or colleague, it'll happen.
Sometimes you'll inadvertently hurt someone and then carry the shame and guilt about it for a long time. Or you will be the one who is hurt by someone you care about. If this relationship is one that you value and you want to 'speak your truth', what is the best way to tell someone that they hurt your feelings?
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Here are five experience-tested ways to heal a fractured friendship.
1. Sleep on it.
Being hurt is not fun, ever. When someone pushes a button by saying something mean or sharp, it can shake us to our core. Especially if, in the tiny recesses of our mind, we believe that there is some truth to it.
A natural inclination is to fight back right away, but that rarely leads to anything good. In fact, we usually end up saying things we will later regret. Try not to retort, and sleep on how you feel.
2. Write a letter that you WON'T mail.
After you've slept on it, chances are you'll be maybe a tad less angry. You're not ready yet to go 'toe-to-toe' with the person. Write a letter. Handwriting is more cathartic. Telling the person every single thing you feel, with no filters.
Releasing anger via writing is a great thing to do and often brings down our ire dramatically.
3. Plan your words carefully.
Start with how important they are to you, and why you're having this conversation. It could go like this:
"You've been a great friend to me for many months, and I treasure our relationship. There's something I want to talk to you about so I can better understand something that I might be creating a story around."
State your issues in an "I felt hurt when you _______."
Open yourself up to the possibility you got it wrong by asking directly, "Did I misunderstand your comments?"
Listen to understand.
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This is hard, but listen without judgment and try to understand the person's motives. Be more present than ever and don't interrupt while they're talking. Perhaps you'll find what they said fair, perhaps you'll find it to be nonsense. But nonetheless, give them the floor and wait your turn to talk.
4. Be prepared for either a positive or negative outcome.
Often we feel that we have been wronged, and expect the other person to make an apology, especially when we made the gestures.
The person may be incredibly contrite and apologize profusely, or may double-down and also tell you other negative things as well.
5. Decide what's best for you.
At that point, you can reflect on your relationship with this person, and see if you want to be as close, become more distant, or end the relationship all together.
If the person takes responsibility and apologizes for the conflict, you have a high likelihood of keeping the relationship where it was. If they don't, you may feel you don't need a a jealous or toxic person. Handling the hurt of a wounded friendship with grace is all we can ask of ourselves.
Relationships define us and our happiness throughout our lives. Following these steps won't prevent you from wounded feelings, but you should be more able to express your hurt in a more meaningful way.