Most of us have experienced the awkwardness of having a sudden blowup or misunderstanding with someone we consider a close friend. It’s not surprising that scenarios like this are so common, given that relationships of every kind—between husbands and wives, partners, siblings, or among other family members—are often plagued with snags along the way.
If you are having a problem with a friend and the relationship is one that truly matters to you, here are some suggestions for getting it back on track:
Don’t Be Too Big To Apologize
If you did something wrong or said something wrong, take responsibility for your actions and apologize for your mistake(s). Perhaps you gossiped behind your friend’s back and she found out that you did. You may have let your friend down when she clearly needed and deserved your help, or you said something nasty because you were angry with your boyfriend and having problems totally unrelated to her.
Make sure your apology is heartfelt. Don’t couch it in lame excuses—and, be sure to promise (and do your best) not to make the same mistake again.
Apologize Sooner Rather Than Later
Apologize as soon you become aware of your misdeed, even if your friend still hasn’t noticed it. By doing so, you’ll stand a much better chance of her accepting your apology. When too much time lapses, small hurts often snowball into big ones.
One caveat: it’s virtually impossible for anyone to hear an apology in the heat of an argument. If the disagreement was very contentious, give yourself and the other person time to cool down (at least overnight) so you can address the problem when cooler heads prevail. When people are upset, they often tend to lose control and blurt out things they later regret.
Determine The Best Way To Apologize
The way you deliver your apology should be determined by the nature of your relationship and the way you usually communicate. Try to arrange to meet in a neutral setting that allows sufficient time and privacy to talk openly.
Apologies generally work best in person rather than through text messages or emails, which can easily be misinterpreted. Face to face, you can observe and respond to the other person’s facial expressions and body language. If your relationship is a long-distance one or primarily an online one (as many are today), the next best thing may be to schedule time to resolve the problem over the phone or on a videoconference, with services like FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts.
During the discussion, be careful not to make the conversation one-sided. You may have put a great deal of thought into the message you want to convey, but be sure to put just as much effort into being a good listener. Give your friend ample time to speak and try to understand what happened from her perspective so you can adapt your message accordingly.
Recognize That After You Apologize, The Ball Is In Your Friend’s Court
If your friend accepts your apology, that’s great! Make every effort not to repeat the same mistake again.
If your initial efforts to apologize are ignored or rebuffed, however, wait some time (perhaps a week or two) before you try again. If she won’t respond to your emails, texts, or phone calls, you might try to send your friend a letter or card via snail mail. Unfortunately, despite doing all the right things, you can’t make someone else accept your apology. Even if you aren’t able to resuscitate the friendship, you’ll feel better knowing you tried.
If you were the one who was wronged, practice forgiveness and accept someone else’s apology. Remember that no one is perfect and friends, even very good ones, often make mistakes or inadvertently hurt people they care about. Being able to forgive may not only allow you to save a treasured friendship, but it will also benefit your health and emotional wellbeing.