What to do when You’re Stuck in the Middle of a Fight

It’s bad enough when your friends aren’t getting along. Being stuck in the middle can make the whole situation twice as awkward and stressful. You want to make sure both of your friends know you care about them, and their feelings. But you also want to avoid being pulled into the drama yourself. The way you handle the situation is important. If you’re not careful, you could end up causing serious damage to one or both of your friendships. So, what can you do to get through this fight unscathed? It’s a tricky task, but these tips should help:

  1. Declare your Neutrality: If you want to keep both friendships intact, try not to take a side. Let your friends know that you’d like to stay out of the fray. Hopefully, they will respect your wishes, and keep from involving you in too much drama. Just make sure to put some thought into the conversation. You don’t want your desire to stay neutral to be mistaken as indifference. Try to make it clear that you’re staying out of the argument because you care so much about both friends; not because you don’t care at all. Let both friends know that you’ll be available if they need a shoulder to cry on, or someone to help take their mind off the drama. You just won’t join either one in conversations or actions that could hurt the other.
  2. Be Careful with your Words: When friends are feuding, they’ll probably feel the need to vent about each other. Even if you’ve asked not to be involved, your friends may still come to you looking for sympathy, or a morale boost. When that happens, it can be tempting to join in on the venting. Maybe you think some valid points are being made. Or maybe, venting seems like a good way to show solidarity. But you have to remember that words always run the risk of being repeated. The more you say about a person behind their back, the more likely you are to face consequences for those words later on. So, if a friend needs to get some things off his/her chest, try to listen without breaking your commitment to stay neutral.
  3. Be Trustworthy: Sometimes, people say things they don’t mean, and later regret. This is especially true when someone is feeling emotional. So be prepared for the fact that your friends may say some things about each other that aren’t very nice. Keep in mind, they are probably only saying these things because they are hurt, or angry, or sad. It is okay to disagree. It is okay to tell your friend you disagree. But it is not a good idea to relay what’s been said back to your other friend. That will only cause more pain, and fuel the fire. Plus, it will raise questions for both friends about your trustworthiness, and overall loyalty. So, keep your conversations with each friend private. Once the dust settles, they will probably feel differently, and will appreciate that you didn’t throw them under the bus in their moment of weakness.
  4. Ask for help, if needed: It’s okay if you’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s okay to be sick of watching what you say, and tiptoeing around everybody’s feelings. And it’s probably a good idea to consider opening up to a parent, guidance counselor, sibling, or someone else you trust, and who is uninvolved in the situation. You need a safe place to discuss how you’re feeling. You will also need someone to step in, if you start to become genuinely concerned about the fight. Does one of your friends seem to be crossing the line into bullying? Is anyone at risk for being physically harmed? Is the fight taking a severe emotional toll on one or both friends? If you’re worried, you should say something. It’s what’s best for everyone in the long run.

Navigating a feud between friends can definitely be a challenge. Everybody is different. And fights can arise for dozens of different reasons. Unfortunately, that means there’s no guaranteed way to stay safe from the drama. You can better your chances of protecting your friendships by being considerate, honest, and supportive of both friends while avoiding getting sucked into the fight. And if things seem to be spiraling out of control, it’s always best to talk to a trusted adult. Things will likely be awkward for a little while, but hang in there! With a little time, empathy, and effort, the drama should blow over soon, and everything can get back to normal.

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Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More