by Samantha Lustig
A few months ago I was sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon, finishing up some homework, when I got a text from my friend. She asked me if I could help her with a problem. I have always considered myself good at giving advice. I silently prided myself on my ability to cut through the emotions that cloud people’s judgment and figure out the best solution to the problem. So naturally, I said yes. She explained that she was having an issue with another friend. She felt that her friend was taking advantage of her kindness and flexibility. But she was getting extremely annoyed with this treatment and she wanted to find a way to express her hurt feelings without ruining their relationship. As I read her texts my first thought was, “The answer is so simple.” The best thing to do was to be completely honest. Continuing to pretend that everything is fine would only make her more upset. She had to sit down with her friend, explain everything that has been bothering her, and have a discussion. If her friend was genuine, she would understand and try to fix her behavior. But right before I hit send on the text I paused. I realized that I had been in this situation before.
I thought back to the times when I’ve been angry with a friend or upset with someone’s behavior. How many times had I actually followed the advice I was about to give? I knew that the best thing to do, the thing that made the most sense, was to be honest. But it’s easy to apply logic to a personal problem when the problem isn’t yours. It’s much easier to solve a conflict when you aren’t emotionally invested in it. When you can strip away the emotions from a situation and approach it in the same way you would approach an algebraic equation, the path to finding a solution is clear. It’s only once you factor in emotions that the path becomes muddled and confusing. Expressing your emotions to someone head on is one of the hardest things for people to do. I had no problem telling my friend to be honest while I sat uninvolved in my living room. But I knew that had it been me in her place, I wouldn’t want to do it. I would be afraid of my friend’s reaction and of losing her friendship. I would get frustrated. She would get defensive. I wouldn’t want to deal with the inevitable fighting it would cause and there was a good chance that it would ruin the friendship. I realized that it wasn’t fair of me to tell her it would be easy to have a calm and logical discussion with someone about her feelings.
I deleted the words I had typed out on my phone and started over. I told my friend that while the best thing to do is to be completely honest, it wouldn’t be easy. If she really wanted to fix this issue, she would have to be prepared to deal with her feelings and those of her friend. She might be tempted to try to ignore what’s been bothering her or try to convince herself that she’s being unreasonable or illogical because confronting emotions like those is difficult. But sometimes the only way to really solve a disagreement with someone close to you is to be emotional.