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Maintaining Friendships in Adulthood – The Ups and Downs of Growing up

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Muhammad Ali said, ” Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything“.

It took me a long time to truly understand the meaning of friendship. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens/ early twenties that I found a great group of friends that I could lean on and that had my back no matter what. A group of people that accepted me for who I was and never judged me. After a while, the lines between friends and family blurred, and they became one in the same.

When you are younger, your entire world seems to revolve around your buddies. But as we get older life happens, our responsibilities change, we grow up. Hanging out and interacting with our friends is no longer the top priority in our lives.

Recently, I have been feeling a little down about this realization. I have found myself feeling frustrated by my group of friends diminished time together. Though I continuously remind myself that this is how it goes, it doesn’t make it any less painful. I also have found myself becoming resentful because every time I attempt to make plans, I get a thousand reasons why they can’t get together and no solutions.

I recognize my feelings of frustration and resentment. I also acknowledge the vengeful part of me that wants to respond with a thousand reasons why I can’t get together next time they make a suggestion. However, that will not make things better.

So what I can I do to address this potential conflict in my life?

  1. Recognize my emotions, feelings, and shortcomings. The only way to grow and change is to be more self-aware. By looking inwards and holding myself accountable to even the negative emotions I am feeling is the first step to actually making changes.
  2. Manage expectations. I think part of my feelings stems from high expectations. I think I expected us to continue hanging out like we always had. I didn’t account for life happening. I have to remind myself that as we get older things will change, we may not be able to see each other all the time, and that is okay! It makes the time we do get to see each other that more special.
  3. Speak Up. My friends won’t know I am upset unless I speak up and voice my concerns. I have a rule that if you don’t communicate it you can’t be upset about it and carry it around. Approaching them in a non-aggressive way and use “I” statements instead of “You” statements can assist in alleviating the frustration I feel. Instead of saying, “You never answer your phone when I text you to hang out.” I could say, “I feel frustrated that every time I try to make plans to hang out I don’t get a response from you.”

Friendships are hard work and like any relationship they take time and energy to maintain, but if you know the meaning of friendship you know how important they are to your life.

Have a Good Weekend,

Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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When the Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree- Tips and Strategies on How to Change your Default Settings

brainearserPrior to becoming privy to the constructive ways to approach, manage and resolve conflict, I handled disputes in the same manner of my parents. My parents always confronted conflict and to get their points across to one another they would yell. When I was younger, I promised myself that I would handle conflicts differently when I was in a relationship. However, when my fiancé and I got into our very first fight, what did I do? I confronted him, and I yelled. My fiancé did not know how to handle this situation and recoiled because he grew up in a different setting, where his parents did not confront their conflict head on and never yelled at one another.

I observed something about how we tackled conflicts from this situation; everyone has, what I like to call a default setting. A person’s default setting is how you instinctively respond to the conflict that typically mirrors your parents or the environment where you were raised. Anyone can change his or her settings with hard work though it may be difficult at first. Once I started in the Negotiations and Conflict Management program at the University of Baltimore, I began to incorporate the tools and skills I learned in class and applied them to my life.

What can you do to change your default setting?

  • Acknowledge that you have a default setting and be honest with yourself about your conflict management shortcomings. We like to deny certain truths and put the blame on others regarding our inadequacies. When I would shout at my fiancé, saying it was his fault I was yelling. If I were honest with myself, I would have recognized that I resembled my parent’s way of handling conflict. I chose to yell because that was the only way I thought he would hear me.
  • Clear up misunderstandings by checking assumptions. We all see, hear, and interpret the world differently. We make assumptions about what is or isn’t being said and rarely ask for clarification. My parents could have easily resolved many of their arguments if they had asked for clarification and not assumed. Similarly, in my relationship, we would jump to conclusions or make assumptions about what the other person was saying or thinking which caused most of our disputes. Now, before I get upset I will say, “When you said you would take out the trash in a little bit, what did you mean by a little bit?”
  • Reframe and state your emotions. Emotions are what cause conflicts to escalate. My parent’s arguments were highly emotional because both of them would be angry, annoyed, hurt, etc. My fiancé and I’s arguments were always emotional because I can be overly sensitive. I would yell because I was mad, or cry because I was frustrated. In the book Difficult Conversations, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen, I learned “I feel” statements. Using these statements helps you to acknowledge and take ownership of the emotion rather than placing the blame on the other person. Now I say, “ I feel frustrated that the trash hasn’t been taken out” rather than yelling, “You said you would take the trash out over an hour ago.”
  • Don’t automatically get defensive. Many times, we anticipate a fight, so we begin to put the boxing gloves on before we have the conversation. My dad dawdles when he knows my mom is mad, and he has to go home to face her. Anytime my fiancé and I were going to have a serious discussion; I would anticipate what he would say and plan my comebacks. Now, I go into every situation where a conflict could occur, reminding myself that we are teammates, not opponents.

While I do not believe our default setting entirely goes away, with perseverance we can challenge our default settings and create better and healthier habits to address conflict.

Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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