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When Friends Fight: Talk About It

Since every conflict involves at least two people, you've got to talk things over with your friend.

The first thing to do is ask your friend to talk to you in private. If other people are around, you might not feel totally comfortable being open and honest with each other. Other kids could take sides in the conversation and make matters worse. What happens if he or she doesn't want to talk? You could also write a letter, which we talk about below. The way in which you talk to your friend is very important. If you start off by saying "You did this," or "You did that," that's accusing, not communicating. Instead, try something called an "I-Message." An I-Message has three parts:

1) I feel ___________________
    Be specific about your emotions. You can use more than one

2) When you ________________
    Give details of how your friend has acted or what he or she has

3) Because ________________
    This is the hard one: the "why."

Here's an example of an I-Message:

"I feel lonely and angry when you spend more time with other friends, because I don't know why we can't all hang out together.

Here are some other important things to remember when you're talking things out:

Stay cool and talk calmly
You and your friend may be dealing with a lot of emotions, but you should try to stay nice and calm while you talk about why you're fighting. Be sure to let your friend talk for as long as he wants, even if you don't agree with what he's saying. Ask him to give you the same courtesy and let you speak your mind without interruption.

Avoid the blame game
When we talk to someone we've been fighting with, it's natural to say or think things like, "You started it" or "It was all my fault." Try to throw away the whole idea of blame, even if you think your friend is in the wrong. Talk about how the fight has been affecting you both, and discuss the causes of the fight, but don't let the conversation break down into accusations about who did what. All that is in the past, and what you're concentrating on now is the future.

Don't get trapped in another fight
Don't let your talk with your friend make things worse. If it's not going well, it may turn into another fight! The best idea at this point is to put it off until a better time.

Try writing it down
If you don't feel comfortable talking to your friend face-to-face just yet, you might want to write down all your feelings in a letter. Writing letters is a GREAT way to sort out our thoughts and emotions, and express ourselves without worrying about saying the wrong thing. When writing, try to keep in mind all the things we've already mentioned, and don't let the letter become a way of expressing your anger or placing blame. When you finish the letter, you can either send it to your friend or keep it for yourself, as a way of helping you through a talk.

I-Messages work really well in letters, too. Take a look at your letter. Do most of the sentences begin with the word "You"? If so, then your letter probably just confronts and accuses your friend, which won't give you the best result. But if most of your sentences begin with "I," like the I-Messages do, then you're communicating how you feel, and this is the first step in working things out.

Talk to a counselor
Sometimes you and your friend might be so angry, or see events so differently, that talking about the fight seems impossible. In these cases, the best thing to do is discuss the situation with a school counselor, teacher, or other trusted adult. If you have to, go by yourself at first, then get your friend involved. Going to an adult does not mean that you can't solve your own problems or that you'll be criticized for your behavior. You're simply getting help from someone who has a clearer view of the problem.

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