Creating, building and sustaining relationships is an important part of our emotional journeys throughout life as it is human nature to seek out a connection with others. That being said, a friendship is special. While you may have a connection with family members, co-workers, teachers, neighbors or even the mailman, a friend is someone who loves you the way you are and wants the best for you. This definition can easily overlap with family members, but a friend is different in that they are of your choosing. Typically, you don’t get to pick your family, but you definitely get to pick your friends.
So what do you do when a friendship is broken? Whether a promise was broken, a secret spilled, a back stabbed or trust was severed in some other way, if both people in the relationship are willing to forgive, it is possible to repair a broken friendship.
What is the Problem?
First and foremost, figure out what the problem is. Why has the friendship gone south? Try to purge any immediate frustrations that you have with the other person, and understand why you, or they, may be upset. Did someone say something wrong, lie about an important matter, or share a significant secret? If you don’t immediately know what the issue is, it may be a good idea to ask the other person. No matter how big or small the problem seems, it is critical to find out what it is right away, so you can then decide how to proceed when working on the friendship.
Is it Worth it?
Let’s be honest, most friendships have plenty of ups and downs. However, staying in any relationship that stresses you out, causes you pain, or generally just makes you unhappy is ultimately going to cause more problems in your life. And who wants more problems?! If a friendship is struggling due to a major issue, take a step back and decide for yourself if it is worth mending.
Your values may be different from your friend’s, who’s will be different from mine, which will be different from my neighbor’s, and so on and so forth. So decide what your values are, and compare them to your friends. Maybe you feel that it is okay to share your friend’s secrets with your family, but they feel the opposite. Or your friend believes that talking to others negatively boosts morale, and you don’t think that. Neither is necessarily right or wrong, they’re your opinions and you are entitled to them. However, when friends have major opinion differences, it can cause unhealthy side effects like stress, pain, and depression. Not cool! Sometimes ending friendships is better for everyone, and that’s okay. Unhealthy relationships are not worth sacrificing your mental health and wellbeing.
So, you know what the problem is and you’ve decided that the friendship is definitely worth fighting for. What’s next? Humble yourself. Whether you think you are right or wrong in the situation, think of what YOU can do to try and fix things, not what the other person needs to do. Ask these questions to yourself:
- What am I willing to change to make my friend happy?
- Am I being judgmental?
- Am I being honest with myself?
- What kind of person do I want to be for my friend?
- Am I dwelling on something from the past that honestly doesn’t matter?
- Am I being the type of friend that I expect in return?
- Should I apologize?
These questions won’t give you the answers to everything, but hopefully they can help you see the issue from a different perspective. Keep in mind that apologies can go a long way, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Having an open mind will help you immensely when you open communication with your friend.
As you go through life the importance of effective communication will become more and more clear. Employers will often ask how well you can communicate, educational systems will focus on speaking and listening skills, and relationships will thrive when dynamic communication is practiced. This type of communication involves the engagement of a listener and a speaker. It is essentially the “how” to how we listen and speak with a person.
Listening isn’t as simple as not talking while someone else is speaking. It is important to be effective when observing or concentrating on someone else. The more active you are as a listener, the more that the speaker will appreciate and expand on what they are trying to say. To practice active listening try these things when appropriate while having a conversation:
- Nodding your head yes or no
- Verbally saying things like “I understand”, “Uh-hu”, or “I see”.
- Keeping your eyes on the speaker
- Paraphrasing what the speaker said in response, to be sure you understand what they are saying
As the speaker in a situation it is important to get your message across clearly. In some circumstances you may want to be concise as well, but when talking with a friend it is likely that things will be more fluent or lengthy. Either way, as the speaker make sure that you are discussing things of importance and not simply reacting immediately with your emotions. If you are able to go into the conversation with an idea of what you want to say, it will be easier to stay on track and get to the bottom of the issue. Of course there will always be emotion involved, especially when trying to mend a broken friendship, but the idea here is to not let the emotions and immediate gut reactions take over.
Being a dynamic communicator while working on a friendship can help both sides feel appreciated and understood. So focus on your communication when discussing the issues that are apparent in the relationship, it can be extremely helpful!
Keep On Keepin’ On
Is your friendship mended? Still on the rocks? Slowly working things out? No matter where you are in this journey, using these tools can be extremely helpful. Any relationship will take work, from both sides, so keep working at it! If you feel that the friendship is worthy, don’t give up. True friends can be hard to come by, and sometimes sacrifices need to be made on both sides. It’s up to you to decide what you want to offer to the other person.
Keep in mind, all of these techniques can be used in any relationship that you have, it just may look a little different for each one. These can, and should, also be used to grow and sustain a relationship, not just fix one. We’re all doing what we can to live a happy life and we all make mistakes sometimes. So remember to do your best, apologize sincerely, and forgive often.
Martin, C.P. (2020). Friendly feuds: How to resolve conflict between friends. Value Options. http://www.valueoptions.com/april06_newsletter/friendly_feuds.htm
Les., D. & Parrott, L. (2019, Sep. 25). 5 steps for mending broken friendships. Symbis Assessment. https://www.symbis.com/blog/5-steps-for-mending-broken-friendships/
Manzano, P. (n.d.). How to mend a broken friendship (Even if you’re not on speaking terms). Tiny Buddha. https://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-mend-a-broken-friendship-even- if-youre-not-on-speaking-terms/