It’s rare that I get angry at my friends. I’m lucky in that I’ve mostly outgrown the girl-fights stage of my life. In the rare instances I do get annoyed with a bestie, my thought process—and subsequent—behavior, usually follows these steps:
1. Silently fume and overanalyze in my head. Decide that I am not going to be confrontational this time because it’s not worth it and this too shall pass.
2. Confront the very friend I promised myself I wouldn’t be confrontational with. Sometimes in the form of A Talk and sometimes an email. Sure, I resolved to let it go, but I can’t help myself. I want to discuss. To fix. (For a long time this was how I dealt with my romantic relationships too, for better or worse.)
3. Regret bringing it up. Confrontation, I’ve found, often results in tension and bad blood, even when everything has supposedly been worked out. With emails, I often feel better after writing said message—but worse after sending it. The issue that has me all riled up is usually something small, something I could have gotten off my chest with a simple yoga class rather than starting a whole Big Thing. (There are times when talking it out really is the best option, but usually my frustrations with friends are so minor that a confrontation isn’t necessary. Even if it is, a yoga class is still a good idea. Get zen and level-headed. If you’re still upset after you leave the mat, you know your emotions are for real.)
4. Apologize for making a bigger deal of something than necessary. Even if I was legitimately upset, I often decide to take the hit and just say I’m sorry for bringing it up because I hate being in a fight.
I realize that this general plan of attack might seem a bit crazy. I’m upset, I bring it up, I regret bringing it up, I apologize and take all blame. It’s not the best conflict resolution mechanism.
But like I said, these days I’m older, wiser, and fight much less. When I am annoyed at someone, I make a concerted effort to stop myself at step number 1. Silently fume, and then jump to 3b, the part about going to yoga to work out my frustration.
I know many of you out there might say that talking things out is always the way to go. Women love a good talk. And I think that’s true for bigger issues, things that 1) could actually be solved and 2) could ruin the friendship if not worked out. But I’ve done enough talking in my relationships—both the platonic and romantic ones—to know that discussion is not always the best course of action for me. Probably because I tend to be impatient, so I decide to have The Talk when I’m all worked up, instead of waiting until I’ve cooled down to see if confrontation is really the best route.
What are your conflict resolution strategies when it comes to your pals?
16 responses to “When You’re Mad at a Friend”
Women as a whole tend to fume and make it so much worse than it really is. Then they blow up and friendships are ruined. I usually do the fuming thing, write the email and then promptly delete it. Somewhere in the middle of the email, I usually ask myself if this is going to matter in 5 years. Unless it goes against my core morals, it really won’t. Let’s be honest too. When you are upset with a friend, you tend to take things more personally and forget that maybe you did something as well or maybe there’s something going on that you don’t know about. Writing the email helps sort your emotions and prepares you for the next time you see or talk to that person, even if you never discuss what you were mad about. Deleting it gives closure.
Awww, boy. You just described exactly what I do. I get so mad at myself!
How did you get in my head?! Your process describes me down to every last detail (except that for me, it’s almost always an email because I feel like I express myself so much better in writing).
I seem to have a problem when it comes to the Let It Go theory of life. That seems so healthy! If nothing else, I’ve at least come to recognize my process and can even – occasionally – miraculously – abort said process without the email being sent.
And can I say? I hate that #4 happens all the time to me. I mean, really, when I bring something up, all I really want is some acknowledgment from my friend that I’m not nuts, that my feelings are valid (honestly, it doesn’t even matter if they want to try and fix the problem). And when I don’t get that? Then I totally backpedal to keep the peace: the issue becomes “nothing” and “not important” and I apologize profusely for being so awful as to have brought up something that might be uncomfortable.
Of course, if it really were “nothing” then I should have not done anything. And if the issue were valid, then I shouldn’t have to back down.
It doesn’t seem that easy in real life….
You’ve hit the nail on the head for me. So often when I bring up an issue it’s not because I really think the problem will be solved, I just want my feelings to be acknowledged. I want my friend to let me know that I’m not insane for being upset even if it is an issue that will never be fixed (in one case I have constant problems with a friend never calling me back when she says she will and constantly making tentative plans or changing plans and telling me at the last minute. She will never change because people have let her get away with her behavior for too long but I just want her to know that it really does bother me sometimes).
I pretty much follow the same pattern. I get upset, I silently fume for a bit, decide that it’s not worth the confrontation and resolve to get over it, confront the friend anyway the next time I see/speak to her, and then regret it because it didn’t really solve anything. In my head I think that talking it out will make me feel better because then I won’t have to sit and think about all the things I would’ve said. The air would be clear and I wouldn’t be holding onto the anger. But I just end up feeling silly because I feel like I’m overreacting.
My husband once offered a very sage bit of advice I try to employ: Everyone is doing the best they can. I agree with your strategy of taking it to the mat. If I am still bothered after a yoga or meditation session, then it probably is a concern, otherwise, let the ether have it.
Ha ha! That was exactly my strategy with friendship & relationship issues in the past. Recently I’ve become a bit more zen (though I still fume plenty, & write imaginary emails, all the crazy happens in my head & noone else needs to see it). Then I sleep on it, or run on it, or talk it out with a 3rd party & whatever & it just melts away.
There is some cultural push (which I believe is unique to Americans) to “get it off your chest”, implying that its unhealthy to not express every single feeling and resentment that crosses your psyche. As i’ve gotten older I’ve realized that most perceived slights and resentments fade away quickly & that airing them (whether in friendship or marriage or family) can make those little issues much bigger, much more important, and much more negative for everyone. Also, how I take a comment or gesture on a given day often has more to do about ME (my mood, my insecurity, my lack of sleep) than the other person.
This isn’t saying that true, longstanding issues don’t need to be talked through—just that not everything that makes me feel bad needs to be an “issue”.
I think as life gets more complicated, I’ve noticed the inherent value in avoiding unnecessary conflicts and saving my energy for the things that really matter.
Ana, you said that also well …I was discussing with my mother in law, a problem I was having with a close friend,this was years ago, when I was much younger ,she told me something at the time that I didn’t understand ,….she kept telling me it is not personal ,you can’t take things personally …life is not personal .
I now recognize that is so true…
I learned the hard way that discussion isn’t always the way to go in trying to solve friendship issues. Sometimes the things that aren’t said speak volumes.
I very rarely confront a friend, if ever …..I think confrontational conversations are a 1 time chance …..either the issue is resolved and apologized for ……any following conversations about the same issue will just a result in going round and round …..there have been times I have apologized for making a mountain out of a molehill when I did not believe that’s what I have done ….leaving me very angry and resentful …..
I think you must be very careful with confrontation it can kill a friendship …..
This may border on gossip ……but before confronting a friend ,discussing the problem with a different friend, sometimes gives me a fresh perspective ….I am able to let go of the emotions ,by just discussing the issue with someone else …
I’m a—tell it as it is (as it is happening)—kinda girl! I’m a firm believer of getting things off your chest. I see no point in being upset, annoyed, troubled, etc . with a friend and she doesn’t know it. When something bothers me, I try to address it then and there. Sometimes certain occasions don’t allow discussing upset feelings at the very moment it happened. If I have to go home without having talked about the issue, then I write in my journal. If that doesn’t take the edge off, I normally consult a mutual friend. If I’m still thinking about the situation after talking to a third party, then I’m taking it to the original friend.
It also depends on the friend. Some friends are more sensitive than others. So when I confront my sensitive friends, they feel as if it is some shocking personal attack! Those types of reactions make me wonder if it’s even worth mentioning anything. My less sensitive friends can take the conversation as it was meant to be—a conversation about something I didn’t like or understood why the issue happened. However, I do agree with Ana that some things are not really my friend’s fault but are mine because of my moods, insecurities, or interpretation of certain events. When I talk it out and see that it was my misinterpretation that caused my annoyance, then I’m the one apologizing for bringing the situation up because I misunderstood what really happened.
A few of my friends silently fume (for months) and then something else will trigger a confrontation and things from months prior are spewing out of their mouths. I sense that they want an apology, but at that moment I honestly cannot remember what caused their annoyance or reason to be upset. Thus I find myself apologizing basically to keep the peace since I barely recall committing the very act they’re upset about! That’s why I try to confront my friends as soon as it happens. I don’t want to get to that level where I’m about to burst a blood vessel.
This was exactly what I was looking for today – I’m mad at a couple, but I’m also mad at myself (your first step is my “favorite,” followed closely by the 4th step!). The way you explained the process helps – as does reading comments from others, too: normal!! 🙂 Thank you!
like one of the commenters above, i find the older i get the less confrontational i am – but i usually fume and write angry emails in my head. just try not to let them stay there!
i will say, that *if* confrontation has to happen, it should never EVER happen in an email. there’s just too much room for inference and i have witnessed friendships completely unravel through electronic communication whether it’s texting or emailing.
as i get older the more i realize that you need to meet people where they are. and if one of my girlfriend’s behaviors starts to really irk me it’s usually a sign to me that i need a break from her (now there’s a topic if you haven’t covered it yet – taking a breather from a girlfriend)
great blog – i love reading it!
That is exactly what I do too. Seems like most of us do. I usually fit in with everyone, but there are times when I feel that I am the one doing all the fitting in and I too fume inside. This is not good because it causes a lot of stress. So, when I begin to feel that I am being a doormat yet again, I do send a text or say something. Then I wonder if it is worth it because I have then upset the recipient. This leads to texting back and forth until I feel guilty and apologise. So, I know why I usually give in and fit in with everyone else. It is because it causes less hassle and is less stressful. If I go the route of expressing then end up apologising then I have caused myself so much hassle and stress that it is not worth it. So, although I think it is good for everyone to express how they feel, it is never worth it when it ends up causing more stress. So, I guess I will remain a doormat.
Stress is not good for anyone. Always be yourself.