What do you need?

I went for an evening walk with my youngest who is now 13 years old. Together with her friends, she is going through changes, and with those changes seem to come challenges related to friendship. It is interesting to observe that their conflicts are not that different from what we could experience as adults, but with the lack of life experience, these conflicts feel much more dramatic than we might experience them after a few years of life (45, for example).

She started the conversation by telling me everything that frustrates her with her friends, and I tried to patiently listen asking sometimes if it wasn’t her own perspective. It is tricky to try to give advice, but here is what I told her that I think can help even ‘experienced’ adults when in conflict, especially with close friends and/or in a romantic relationship.

  1. Try to always remember that the other person, just like you, has more than enough with their own insecurities, inner struggles, and feeling of lack, so, whatever they do, is 8% about you and 90% about their inner life. So, if a friend suddenly acts cold, ‘ditches’ you for another friend, or doesn’t want to do something you used to do together, before assuming it is about or against you, talk about it. Try to not talk when you are upset. Wait until things are calm and ask. AND, even when it is about you, it is often a matter of perspective. If, however, the other person tells you there is something you have done that has hurt them, be open to reflect and consider saying sorry and avoiding doing the same again.
  2. Avoid talking with your friend by listing what is ‘wrong’ with them, or what they do ‘wrong’ (Very difficult!) Focus rather on expressing how you feel (or felt) in a given situation and wait for a response. Listen with an open heart. Most of the time, the intention behind the action is not to hurt. But when it is, try to find solutions together. I know, this one is difficult for a teenager, but at least expressing how they felt is better than ‘attacking’ the friend.
  3. Say clearly what you need. Write a short list of what you think you need from your friend to feel valued, safe, and included. Try to be as concrete as possible describing actual actions your friend can take.
  4. Listen to what your friend has to say. Consider their point of view.
  5. Consider accepting some of the sides that you see as challenging for the sake of those you value/like. Write a list of the pros and cons of your friendship with this person and decide if you want to continue investing time in it.

As I have been hearing since I started studying Yoga, when we move the focus inwards, when we are aware of how we perceive things, what we need vs what we think we need, and what we can give, it often is easier to communicate with others. It sometimes brings you to a better space in a relationship (although it might take time), and it sometimes might mean you need to let that person go, but at least you don’t feel like you are constantly banging your head on the wall.

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