THE BLOG

How to Fix a Friendship... And Why It's Worth It!

12/19/2010 12:30 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

For years I had a downright bad relationship with my younger sister. When we were very little we were best friends, but sometime around high school we drifted apart and never quite rekindled our friendship. As we grew up, the space between us felt odd and awkward. Whenever she was around, I grumbled about her, but as soon as she left, I felt terrible and sad. I had some serious negative thoughts about her. For starters I truly believed that she solicited my parents attention by playing the baby and that they responded by treating her better! I know, I know, that sounds so childish, especially for an adult woman, and it was. But in the moment, it was these terrible thoughts that popped into my head and ran amok.
 
I remember one particular vacation at the shore watching my three kids climb all over her and have a glorious time. It took her getting on a plane and going home for me to figure out that I needed to talk to her about this, so I called her.
 
When she got on the phone I confessed. "Guess what? I think Mom and Dad treat you better, like a baby, and it drives me nuts!" She was quiet and then said, "I think Mom and Dad treat you better, like you are bigger, more accomplished!" So for the next three hours we went back and forth bringing up the deep, dark thoughts we had about each other; all through it, I was blown away that she actually thought that my parents treated me better than her!
 
By the end of our conversation, we had resolved a lot, copped to feeling jealous, apologized a fair amount, too, and promised to keep the channels of communication open forever more. When I hung up the phone, I felt incredibly proud and happy; it was like a weight had been lifted. It felt so good to confess what I had been thinking, and it was even better to find out that a lot of it I had invented myself to cover up my own feelings of insecurity and jealousy.
 
And what was even more curious was that when I fixed my relationship with my sister, it altered the way that I operated. Long gone were the days of bottling up my thoughts; I promised to bring up issues with other people as soon as they happened. Even more importantly, I let go of my egocentric tendency to think that I knew what was going on for the other person. I now saw that I had no clue and that the only way to find out was to actually speak up!
 
Relationships, friendships and being connected to people are essential parts of human existence. As a Handel Group Life Coach, I really enjoy coaching people on their issues and getting them to open up about what isn't working in their relationship.

Why Do Friendships Fall Apart?

There are various reasons why a friendship may dissolve -- someone got hurt, there was a fight and feelings weren't expressed, or someone didn't take responsibility for something they did or said in the relationship. Someone's feelings got hurt, but they're afraid to tell their friend, or they don't tell the other person that something is bothering them. When this happens, resentment grows, and the friendship suffers. People certainly aren't saying everything that needs to be said, and even very good friends often don't express what is honestly really going on between them. In order to fix a friendship, a person needs to really understand the core issue in every struggling relationship: lack of communication.
With my sister, what I discovered was that if you get people to confess and admit everything about a fight or being hurt to each other, it will change the dynamic of the relationship.  It's really about each person being able to express their feelings to the other person, who is listening and giving them the space to talk. It's always what goes unsaid (judgments, being hurt, negative opinions) between two people that ultimately destroy a friendship.

How to Repair a Friendship

  1. Talk and Communicate.
  2. If you've had a falling out or need to speak to a friend about an issue. Reach out to them.  Tell them you would like to repair the friendship and want to talk about what happened.

    One of the biggest issues people have to get over when trying to fix a broken relationship is that they believe they know the outcome. They don't! When a person goes into a conversation thinking they already know how it's going to turn out, it influences what happens. You have to go into the conversation open, available and ready to really communicate and talk about the friendship with no predictions on how the conversation will go.

  3. Cop to Your Involvement.
  4. If you want to truly repair a friendship you must cop to your involvement in the breakdown of the relationship. Really look at yourself and own up to what you contributed to the upset. You go first -- don't wait for your friend. Admit that you lied to them, or that you were rude and didn't care about their feelings. This will often open up your friend to looking at their involvement and responsibility in the situation.

  5. Apologize.
  6. This seems like a simple action, but for many people it's so hard to do. Apologize for what you did wrong and mean it. Giving a strong, heartfelt apology without expecting anything in return is very powerful in rebuilding a friendship.

  7. Listen to Their Side.
  8. Giving your friend the space to really speak while you listen to them is extremely important when mending a friendship. The person needs to feel like they are being heard; let them speak for as long as they need to without interrupting, and really listen.

  9. Create an Action Plan.

After the relationship is cleaned up, the next step is to create an action plan for moving forward with your friendship. Are there requests to make? This is the time to be honest and let your friend know if there are specific things that drive you crazy -- and ask them the same. The goal is to make the relationship better for both of you so that you can move forward in a healthy way.

Fixing a Friendship Is Worth it!

As a society, we have the mentality and think it's ok to blow up relationships or end them without addressing what happened. This causes us to have unresolved relationships in our lives that haunt us and affect us negatively on an unconscious level. Fixing a friendship is usually worth the time and effort. Communication and expressing yourself are essential in cultivating a great relationship, and human relationships are really the foundation of our civilization and a true source of happiness.