Why you shouldn’t avoid conflict in friendships

Picture of Bee and his friends on the steps in Montreal

Take a second and think about all the friendships you have built

 and the ones you have lost. How do you view your friendships and how have you dealt with any conflict?

 

Friends are amazing, especially when we find ones that click with our personality. They bring a sense of joy to our lives: planning fun get aways, deep conversations, supporting decisions, and giving you much-needed perspective. As humans we need connections and friends provide that sense of connection.

 

But there are times when our friends make us angry. Sometimes, they have different views than we do and we end up in an argument. In these situations, there are times where it only takes one or two bad moments to lose a friend you’ve shared years of experience with.

 

When you get closer to someone, and the more time you spend with them, conflict is inevitable. The more you disagree, the more you learn what you don’t like about them.

 

In a romantic relationship, we have an expectation that there will be conflict. We know that this will happen, and therefore our tolerance is typically higher for arguments and disagreements. In friendships, this is not the same. And I ask, why?

In romantic relationships,

if conflict is handled well, it generates growth. It allows both sides to grow into better human beings. I’m not talking about the arguments where you yell and swear at each other. This isn’t useful for anyone. I’m talking about conflict that highlights areas about yourself that you could improve.

 

For example, my natural instinct is to be avoidant. Through different conflicts with my wife, I try to be more and more aware of it so that I can change. This avoidance is my first line of defense when it comes to friendships as well. 

 

A friend of mine told me recently that they didn’t like it when I challenged them on how they think. 

 

My first reaction was to back off and make them feel comfortable. I didn’t want them to be upset and I didn’t want to risk losing their friendship. But because I had practiced awareness of my default behavior (avoidance), I chose to react differently. 

 

Instead I replied with, “one of my responsibilities as a friend is to share my perspective and highlight things that you may be missing. Yes, this could create conflict, but that is part of what being a good friend is. I want my friends to challenge the way I think and I will always do the same for them.”

We should change the way we view our friendships.

You likely have friendships where you avoid conflict. Let me give some examples:

 

Example 1:

Your perspective: 

Your friend says something that hurts your feelings, but instead of talking to them about it, you decide to talk to them less. 

 

Friend’s perspective: 

They have no idea that what they said hurt you and they just see you as distant or cold now.

 

Example 2:

Your perspective: 

Your friend seems to always challenge the way you think when you bring up issues you are dealing with, rather than just agreeing with your point of view. It seems they think they have all the answers and are better than you.

Your friends perspective

Your friend wants to be the best friend they can be by helping potentially identify blindspots or new perspectives. They are hoping that it will help ease your pain or problem.

 

Example 3:

Your perspective:

Your friend is someone who really likes to have plans and make sure everything is figured out before planning a vacation. For you, this doesn’t work because you like to live in the moment and see what the day brings. You end up spending less and less time with this friend without telling them.

 

Your friends perspective

Your friend was raised in an environment where if she didn’t have things planned out, nothing would get done. Growing up, their family would be unproductive all day and she fears missing out on what life has to offer.

 

In all these, there are two distinct perspectives and if they are not communicated, they could cause friendships to break overtime. So what do you do?

You must build friendships on trust, communication and

 the mindset of “I’m in this for the long haul.” If you truly value and care for your friend, you will be prepared to deal with the conflicts that will arise from getting close to this person. Over time, you build so much trust and love that yes, you will have arguments, but you will build effective tools to deal with them. 

 

Your friends will trust that you always have the best intentions for them and from their perspective, if you bring something up. It’s not because they are not amazing human beings, but because you want them to reach their full potential. 

 

This mindset has really helped me build my friendships with the people around me. If you adopt this style of thinking, I believe you will have deeper and more meaningful friendships all around.

 

If you have an amazing friend, I’d love for you to share this blog with them. 

 

Alternatively, if you read this and lost a valuable friend because of avoiding conflict, share this blog with them and reach out again to build a better friendship.

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4 Responses

  1. Excellent article. The bigger piece here is that relationships can be a portal to growth if we are willing to acknowledge the inevitability that we trigger each other’s unfinished business. This is free therapy, so long as we can have some hard chats and both emerge more whole as friends and individuals.

  2. Love this blog post Bee! You and I seek similar things from our friendships and seem to have a similar approach when it comes to handling them. I’m a firm believer in transparency and honesty combined with love and respect. If the other person is open, it makes for some powerful friendships!

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