I grew up in a time when having a disagreement with a friend was a harmless and fun part of the landscape:
McDonald’s vs. Burger King
Classic Coke vs. New Coke
Grunge vs. 80s Hair Bands
Backstreet Boys vs. NSYNC
Britney vs. Christina
Alabama vs. Auburn
Even now, the boisterous disagreement between the Chick-Fil-A sandwich vs. Popeye’s spicy sandwich was fodder for social media. It was funny seeing videos by fans of both sides extolling the virtues of their favorite sandwich. I, too, became a part of the conversation as I was incredulous that a co-worker had never eaten Popeye’s Chicken. “Never eaten’ Popeye’s?!”
For many of us, we have been able to have these fun yet inconsequential disagreements or debates with our friends. Now, our disagreements have more weight and can result in a change in our relationship with our friends. We are no longer disagreeing about boy bands and colas, but about politics, climate change, parenting styles, and how we deal other major issues of the day.
As a result, those relationships that have sustained and supported us throughout our lives are being tested due to our differences of opinion and differences in actions & reactions.
How do we keep disagreements from derailing our friendships?
1. Take a step back to reassess the relationship.
I take my role as a “friend” seriously. Consequently, I often see my friends as extensions of my family. In this phase of my life, I have chosen to reevaluate, realign, and prioritize the friendships that mean the most to me.
In order to do that, I asked myself the following questions:
- Can we as friends agree to disagree without being disagreeable?
- Is this a mutual relationship or is it one-sided?
- Is this friendship feeding me or draining me?
- What is the depth of this friendship?
- What kind of friend am I?
- Was I overbearing? Did I overshare?
2. Accept that they have different experiences and opinions.
In order to maintain friendships, I realized that I can’t control the actions, thoughts, and opinions of my friends. I can only control my actions, thoughts, and reactions. As a result, I take pride in the fact that I have many friends who are different from me. They are older and younger than I am. Some have children; others do not. We are from different cultures and different ethnicities. The differences that we have make me a more well-rounded person because I learn from my friends’ diverse experiences and backgrounds.
For many of us, our friends are our backbones and support systems. It can be painful to recognize that you are not on the same page regarding an important issue, but it doesn’t have to end a friendship. I love the way St. Francis of Assisi put it, “Seek to Understand rather than to be Understood.” On the other hand, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”