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The Fine Art of Reconciling Friends

By Andrew Burgon / phoenix@projectfellowship.com
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October 31, 2013

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Taking on the Role of Mediator and Reconciling Friends.

Sometimes friends split and on the odd occassion a mutual friend may be asked to help patch things up. How does one go about doing this? Let’s create a scenario of a friend who managed to derail two friendships that he cared about and he turns to a third friend for help. For those of you taking on the role of reconciler please add any valuable ideas you have on the subject in the comment section.

Sarah had decided not to invite Michael to an event because she knew a good friend of hers was no longer on good terms with him. Being perhaps overly sensitive to this kind of thing she had decided for the time being to alternate her invites so that they weren’t present at the same events.

Sure enough, she gets a phone call from Michael. He was wondering why he hadn’t been invited. It’s not long before he tells her that he deeply regrets that two of his friendships’ have gone off the tracks. He had acted out of frustration and impatience and had said and done some rash things. He realized too late the damage he had caused. He felt helpless and powerless to deal with it himself. Both friends had put up walls to keep him out. Feeling distraught he asked Sarah to talk to these two mutual friends.

The conversation had placed a sense of urgency on Sarah and she felt compelled to talk to her two friends that very night. She sat down and wrote down what the problem was, how to go about reconciling them and what she felt Michael needed to do.

The first friend, Michelle, was not so receptive. She felt that such a sensitive situation is best not handled with a phone call. In hindsight, Sarah wished she had arranged to see them both in person. She would have also liked to have waited till the next day at least. That way she wouldn’t be under the influence of feelings that were stirred during her phone call with Michael.

Michelle did, however, let Sarah talk to her about the matter but it was obvious she had reached the enough-is-enough stage. Michael’s absence in her life suited her just fine and the friendship wasn’t as close as Sarah had believed. He had failed to take the initiative quick enough to apologize and make amends and there had been one too many unpleasant episodes with Michael.

Promptly apologizing can help stop negative feelings from festering. Always keep in mind that once a window of opportunity closes it makes it even more difficult to make amends. Even if you feel you’ve done nothing wrong you can sincerely apologize for causing offense. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize what I did would trouble you. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I’ll be sure not to do it again.”

The second friend, Jessica, was receptive. While she was quick to point out Michael’s irritating behavior she was also a good listener. All Sarah needed to do was convey Michael’s regret and earnest desire to be reconciled then talk her through it. In the end, Jessica was ready to wipe the slate clean.

Sarah called Michael back and gave him some feedback on the calls she made. While Michelle had been resistent she felt she knew how Michael could at least get her to warm up to the idea. He needed to slam the ball back hard into Michelle’s court. While she didn’t think Michelle would slam it back she may catch it and wonder what she was going to do with it!

She knew that Michelle really appreciated friendly initiative taken towards her. She remembered an incident a long time ago between the two of them. Michael was suppose to look after one of her prized, exotic plants that she had grown from a seed while she was on vacation for two weeks but had carelessly forgotten to water it. Michelle returned to find a ghost of a plant that was beyond reviving. He had seemed non-chalant about it and had given a rather weak apology. He never offered to go to the flower market and replace it.

Sarah knew that the negative feeling from this incident lingered and troubled Michelle just a little on the odd occasion. She had heard Michelle touch on the subject two or three times in the past. She felt that if Michael made the effort to buy the same plant and send it with a sincere letter of apology to Michelle that’s a ‘seed’ action that may eventually germinate. Unfortunately, Michael didn’t end up acting on the advice.

In hindsight, Sarah wished she had pressed Michael to commit to doing two things. Commit to buying that plant and write a little apology note to Michelle. It may not have changed anything but since she had put in the effort to reconcile Michael with his two friends she would consider it a form of payment for her involvement.

Concerning Jessica, Sarah warned Michael that he was skating on thin ice despite the second chance given. She emphasized the point and encouraged him to ease back into the friendship gently.

From all appearances Michael and Jessica get along well now and have resumed the close non-romantic friendship they had enjoyed previously. Jessica even congratulated Sarah later on for reconciling the two of them. Michelle is okay about being at the same event as Michael but she will not lift a finger to pursue a friendship with him.

Michael had made the right choice in choosing Sarah to help him. She was in a good position to mediate. All three of them were her friends and they had often come to the events she hosted. She had their respect and they were willing to listen to her.

If your friend has asked you to help him or her reconcile with a friend is there another friend in a far better position to do so? Ask your friend if she thinks that person would be more suitable for the task.

Reconciling friends is best done with some mental preparation and clear emotions. Identify clearly what the problem is, write down some ideas on how to resolve it and meet the people in question in person. Talk them through it. Convey the regret of the offending person and the earnest desire to make up. Be a good listener allowing your friend to vent his or her feelings. Listen to his or her side of the story and point out any misunderstandings that may exist.

There may be certain conditions you need the offending party to agree to. Let the person you’re mediating for know if there is anything that needs to be done to help restore the relationship. You can also accelerate the mending process by inviting them to a party or other events subtly getting them together for some fun times.
 
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