Fighting With A Friend? Reconciling Is Never Futile If You Approach It Well

The feeling that comes after a big blowout with a friend can be one of the worst you'll ever experience. A rift with a loved one can leave you feeling drained, depressed, and angry, just to name a few negative emotions. The situation can seem even worse if you think a bridge has been burned and there's no hope of reconciliation.

However, it might help to know that getting into conflicts with close friends is far from uncommon. "In any close friendship, feelings of envy, competition, disappointment, anger — the entire range of emotions that make us human — are going to rear their head," psychologist Harriet Lerner told the Chicago Tribune. "Friendship doesn't suffer from anger or conflict, it suffers from the denial of it."

That being said, you might not be excited to pick up where you left off with your friend if insults were thrown around, for example. It may also feel impossible if you still feel like the fight is ongoing and there was no resolution. However, reconciling isn't necessarily futile if you know how to approach it appropriately. There are many ways you can rehab a relationship with a friend, assuming you're willing to put in the time and effort.

Allow time to pass

One of the worst things you can do after a fight with a friend is add fuel to the fire, especially if there wasn't a definitive end to the argument. For instance, bringing up the matter shortly after the conflict occurred may only irritate your friend further. Additionally, you or your loved one may suffer from more hurt feelings. Lerner told the Chicago Tribune that one way to begin the recovery process is to allow some time to pass.

"Strike when the iron is cold," Lerner explained. "When you let time go by, you may realize that it's not that big a deal. You may say to yourself, 'Josephine was under a lot of stress at the party. She didn't mean to be rude.' Not everything has to be talked about. You don't have to address every little thing that irritates you about your friends."

If you do feel that one of the causes of your conflict needs to be addressed, try to be as specific as possible about why you felt hurt. Lerner also recommends maintaining a calm, loving demeanor, and avoiding over-talking — doing so might put your friend in a more defensive position.

Approach obstacles with forgiveness and patience

If this is not the first conflict you've had with your friend and you suspect the friendship is toxic, you might feel more inclined to end the relationship altogether. However, the ongoing issue might actually be rooted in a lack of forgiveness and patience. As Reader's Digest explains, any relationship is bound to come with its fair share of misunderstandings. The key to overcoming these obstacles and helping friendships thrive is to recognize mistakes and miscommunication. "Take responsibility for your own failures and learn from them, express gratitude for the good and bad times — both are teachers and blessings — and show patience and forgiveness," author and contemporary family expert Susan Kuczmarski, Ed.D., told the publication.

If possible, try to identify the reason for the fight with your friend. Then, take the time to understand why it happened and acknowledge any feelings that were hurt along the way. From here, you and your friend can work on forgiveness and exchange apologies, if necessary. "Brainstorm to come up with an action plan," Kuczmarski added. "Say, 'Let's try to come up with some ideas for how to prevent this from happening again.'" In the end, your friendship will grow from resolving your mistakes.

Identify behaviors that trigger conflict

No one is perfect, and the same sentiment applies to your best friend. That being said, identifying and understanding their personality — as well as their triggers — can help you nurture your friendship. Additionally, knowing your own triggers can be beneficial, and it might help you resolve an existing conflict.

A 2011 study published in Psychological Science looked at how closely people understood their friends' triggers — behaviors that someone might consider to be "annoying," such as skepticism or gullibility. The researchers found that those who could identify their friends' triggers had better relationships than their counterparts, per ScienceDaily. This was because they understood and accepted their friends' traits, leading to less frustration.

If your current fight with a friend began because of a trigger, you may have been unaware that their behavior provoked a reaction in you — even if it had happened many times in the past. Identifying behaviors that irk you can help you get to the bottom of the conflict with your friend. You can also use it as a launching point to open up a discussion about how it makes you feel. Together, you and your friend can nail down your triggers and look for ways to avoid them in the future. This can result in less fighting, fewer apologies, and no hurt feelings.

Find a safe space to talk it out

In terms of the basics of reconciliation, there are some technicalities that need to be in place in order for it to go as smoothly as possible. This applies to relationships of all types, as much can be lost in translation, depending on how and where you are attempting to reconcile with a person. Stylist notes that if you're feuding with a friend, one of the worst approaches to take is texting. "Texting someone is an immediate invitation for misinterpretation and fuel for conflict," life coach Grace McMahon told the source.

Alternatively, the best approach to talking it out is to do it in person, if possible. A phone call will suffice if distance is a barrier between you and your friend. When selecting a place to reconcile, you'll want to choose a space where both people feel safe and comfortable — the idea is to be vulnerable enough to discuss your emotions while on a level playing field with your friend. A coffee shop or public park are two examples to consider.

If you're afraid that one of you may cause a scene, you might need to consider meeting at one of your residences. "In public, you'll try not to cause a scene but sometimes an outburst of emotions is just what you need in order to be heard and understood," McMahon told Stylist.

Be willing to ask the tough questions

In the middle of a fight with a friend, the last thing on your mind is likely conflict resolution, especially if you're still fuming. However, continuing the conversation with a series of questions for your friend might lead you down a path toward reconciliation, according to HelloGiggles.

Therapist Dr. Tammy Nelson told the publication that there are a few key questions you can ask after a fight to speed up the recovery process. First, check in with your friend to see if they need space before attempting to reconcile. If they're willing to keep talking, take the time to listen to their side without invalidating their emotions.

In the end, it's important to understand that your friend may still need to process the situation and emotions at hand. For this reason, you shouldn't assume that everything is back to the way it was before the conflict. Give your loved one time and space, especially if you haven't agreed on a plan to move forward just yet. When the time comes, ask your friend if there is anything you can do differently to prevent this type of conflict in the future. In time, you can begin to discuss the potential for forgiveness on both of your parts.

Learn to pick your battles

At the end of the day, a fight between you and your friend just might not be worth the time, energy, or ending of the relationship. As PsychCentral points out, it's important to recognize that not all arguments stack up the same. With that in mind, it might be best to let things go, if only for the sake of your friendship.

Of course, this doesn't mean that you should sweep the situation under the rug. It's still important to acknowledge any hurt feelings, whether it's you or your friend who could benefit from validation more. To make it easier, try to put yourself in the shoes of your friend — how would you feel if you were on the receiving end of your comments? It may also help to accept the fact that in some situations, you'll have to agree to disagree with your friend. While it might not feel like a solution, it can allow you to continue your friendship without hostility or hard feelings.