It’s safe to say nearly everyone has experienced at least one conflict with one friend in their lives so far. And when watching other people’s friendships play out, either IRL or on TV, it’s easy to think back to how we’ve handled our own similar friendship problems.
Take The Real Housewives of Dallas' LeeAnne Locken and D’Andra Simmons, who began a peaceful vacation lunch with Stephanie Hollman. Pleasantries were exchanged. Drinks were ordered. To a bystander, it would look like three friends having lunch, but to an insider like Stephanie (and us) there was visible tension in the air as the two lifelong friends, LeeAnne and D’Andra, were embroiled in an intense feud that absolutely no one was acknowledging at this lunch. (Watch the clip above to see for yourself.)
This made us think: Not every disagreement needs a knock-down-drag-out fight and, often times, it’s better to not address (or re-address) every single problem.
We spoke with Nicole Sbordone, a licensed clinical social worker and author of Surviving Female Friendships: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, on when to sweep your friendship issues under the rug and when to air out your dirty laundry.
Situations Where Avoidance Is Acceptable
Sbordone told us that LeeAnne and D’Andra weren’t wrong when they avoided discussing the issue because they were on a group vacation. She stated, “When you're around a lot of people (like a vacation/wedding/or formal event), you want to be cordial and respectful. You don't want to make a scene in front of people or ruin someone else's event.” She also stressed you should not make the event about you and detract from the person for whom the spotlight is intended.
Situations Where Confrontation Is Imperative
Sbordone said, “If it's really bothering you, then try to see the friend or talk to her over the phone. It's healthy to talk through any issues and resolve them sooner than later — letting them sit and fester is not going to help the friendship.” She added, “Talk about why you're upset and give examples. Don't blame/attack the other person.” If there’s absolutely no chance to call or see your friend before a group event and you fear your bubbling emotions may erupt into some sort of cake-throwing scenario, don’t forget you can always stay home.
How This Affects Those Around You
By pretending everything is fine with a friend, you may be trying to make things easier for your shared friends, but people are more perceptive than you think. While you think you are preventing them from feeling uncomfortable, you may be failing.
Sbordone warned, “If everyone knows there's tension between you and another friend, they can feel it and see it. Especially if the situation has not been resolved and the two of you are avoiding each other. We can sense that in our friends and it definitely impacts those around you.”
What if You Are Stuck In The Middle
On The Real Housewives of Dallas, while LeeAnne and D'Andra did what was best for them, Stephanie also did what was best for her in the situation, as her friends’ deteriorating friendship was making her uncomfortable so she chose to address it herself as a third party.
Sbordone warned it doesn’t always work out so well, saying that intervening in other friends’ issues “depends on the friendship." She added, "If you feel comfortable to say something to one of both of them, go ahead. But be prepared that they may tell you that it's none of your business.”
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