Of all the relationships you have, it’s not only romantic one that steals your heart and affects your spirit. It’s the one who has stuck by your side through the terrible dates, the bottles of wine you drank when you didn’t get that dream job, or the one who comforted you when a close family member passed away by sending you funny cat GIFs. They’re the ones who never forget your birthday, always make you feel supported and loved, and well, basically knows you as well as you know yourself. In our 20s (and 30s and 40s and…), best friends are like sisters — and a huge part of our daily survival.
But just like you bicker with your partner or your sibling, you’re bound to have disagreements with your number one pal. Surprisingly though, for someone you tell everything to (even the TMI details they wish you’d keep to yourself) — it can be hard to tell your bestie that you’re upset about something. But to maintain that trust and closeness, it’s important to always be candid and upfront as issues arise.
“Just like honesty is needed in your romantic relationship, honesty is also important to keep the intimacy and commitment strong in your ‘best friend’ relationships too. Honesty also shows you trust and respect this person. On the flip side, being open or receptive to your best friend shows you are willing to actively listen and talk through concerns,” therapist Courtney Geter, LMFT tells Bustle. “Dishonesty may not end a relationship though it can create an environment that feels unsafe. We work hard to build friendships and we need people close to us. Honesty will help keep these relationships strong and moving forward.”
Not sure how to open your heart to your friend? Here are some ways to get brave:
1. First, Get Real With What’s Wrong
Before you can explain why you’re angry with your pal, it’s important to get a grip on the root of your issue. Though it’s likely your friend could of done or said something that wasn’t kind or respectful, you must also analyze what else is going on in your life to trigger your emotional response. “
Think through what you’re saying before you say it: What exactly was said? Why are you upset? In the details are the clues to uncovering what is truly upsetting you. Getting to the underlying ‘upset’ is key. Dig and dig. Ask yourself, ‘why does this really bother me?’ and then again ‘does this specific upset occur in other areas of my life?’ You are searching for the ‘issue’ that lives below the situation. Then answer, if possible, ‘what did this trigger in me that relates to previous time in my life?,’” life coach Elaine Cohen tells Bustle.
2. Sleep On It
Maybe you had a passionate debate with a co-worker or have been anxious about saving money lately, and then your friend jokes around with you and it hits a nerve. Before you decide to have a heart-to-heart, Cohen encourages taking 24 hours to mull. “Sleep on it. Think and contemplate,” she says. “Before you bring up your feelings, make sure it’s not just a reaction instead of a pattern.”
3. Pick a Comfortable Location
There’s nothing worse than being bombarded at group setting with your bestie rolling her eyes and ignoring you because she’s harboring a resentment she’s not sharing. That’s why Geter says it’s essential to pick a place where it’s just the two of you and where you’re both comfortable, like your respective apartments. “Choose a time and place that is distraction free and each can provide undivided attention. At a large party or in a public place may not be best. Why not invite your friend over and suggest an activity along with talking,” Geter says.
4. Approach It With a Resolution In Mind
You might be tempted to have a case of word vomit, especially when you’ve finally mustered up the courage to come clean, but do what you can to resist spewing out a never-ending sentence of everything that’s nagging at you. Instead, Cohen suggest a calmer, more thorough approach that focuses on resolving the issue instead of making your friend feel bad.
“Once you can see your part, know that there are ways to communicate whereby you are driving toward a resolution, not a fight. But if you go at the discussion with the desire to 'win the conversation' or 'prove you are right', don't bother because this approach will likely backfire,” Cohen says. “Instead, right off the back, quell your friends concerns by saying you want to resolve something. Go through what you have felt, be honest, then give your friend time to respond.”
5. Practice Active Listening and Responding
Once you’ve said your piece, it’s time to practice being patient while your friend says his or her thoughts in response to you. “Try to avoid thinking about your response while your friend talks as this can cause you to miss important details or come off as defensive when responding. If you are confused or don't understand what your friend is trying to say, repeat back what you heard and ask for clarification,” Geter says.
6. Leave The Past And The Future Out Of It
You both might be tempted to come up with a case to argue your side, but if you can, Geter advises to leave the past where it is. Especially if you want a future as a friendship.
“Don't bring up things from the past as this also creates defensiveness and blame. Focus on the current topic and stick with that until resolved,” Geter says. “Once resolved, don't bring that topic up in future conversations either. If there are things in the past that still bother you, talk about each one at a time to prevent overwhelming the conversation.”
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