Letter from concerned client: I just started dating a guy that my friend used to date. They went on a couple dates and it didn’t go anywhere. Even though they had nothing serious, I am still afraid my friend will be mad when she finds out. What do I do? How do I approach this with her?
Mabel: I understand how this could be a daunting and scary conversation as you are worried it could damage your friendship. The best way to approach this situation is to tell her as soon as possible. If she were to find out thorough the grapevine she would think you were trying to hide it from her and it would be more hurtful. It is best if you open up to her. Have the conversation. Show her you value her friendship. It will make both of you feel better to talk it out, get it off your chest and give her a chance to tell you how she feels about it. Have the conversation face-to-face to make it as genuine and heart-felt as possible. Avoid doing it over the phone, and definitely do not do it through text message. Those ways of communicating won’t come off as meaningful to her. Approach the conversation as “I want to let you know because I value our friendship and didn’t want you to find out from anyone else.” Let her know that you do care about her feelings. She will likely appreciate your honesty, and if it does bother her she will be able to let you know. Having an open floor for conversation will ease tensions across the board and will help to avoid any damage to your friendship.
When disagreements occur, are you quick to jump in and say “I am sorry”? Even when you might not really be sorry. Maybe you don’t even think you did anything wrong, or maybe you were upset by something the other person said or did but rather than addressing it, you say “sorry.”
It is possible to say “sorry” too much. It can be a quick way to get out of conflict, to avoid the disagreement from extending into another. It is avoidant and it is not healthy.
Conflict isn’t bad.
Every relationship has some kind of conflict. It is healthy and helps your relationship to grow and strengthen when handled in a constructive way. By constantly apologizing, even when you don’t really mean it, you are creating unhealthy boundaries. You are not addressing things that might be a problem for you. You are not airing your grievances and in turn are likely building resentment. And, you are showing the person you are in conflict with that you can be walked on because you won’t stand up for yourself.
By immediately saying “sorry” you are closing the door to the discussion. You are eliminating the space to make changes that could help you feel happier and help your relationship.
It is common for people who are not confident in conflict-resolution skills to apologize too much. It becomes a knee-jerk reaction. But, the best way to improve those skills is to try them out and gain confidence. Not only will discussion help to strengthen and grow your relationships, but it will also help you to feel better about yourself.
The first step to ending the cycle of the chronic apologizer is to first recognize and acknowledge it is a problem. Then next time you are faced with conflict don’t jump to the apology, instead take the time to share your side, express your needs and your feelings. You won’t regret it, and even if it doesn’t go as well as you would have hoped at least you are making strides in the right direction.