Reading an interesting article in ‘The Washington Post News’ by Deborah Tannen on 07 August 2017, about the ways women communicate with one another, brought up an interesting topic about conflict and resolution between women. While we are considered more emotionally articulate than our male counterparts…. That can be the exact reason we don’t always get along, and in extreme cases the reason that causes some women to only invest in male friendships.
Let’s look at it this way… If you have done something to upset a woman, regardless of your relationship with her, you are more likely to be prompted into a conversation about it than under the same circumstances with a man. Men are not encouraged to discuss how they feel, and to be fair, do seem to be less easily emotionally expressive (in a negative or positive context.) It is harder to upset a man in general, and if you do, he may say or do absolutely nothing about it. He is unlikely to dwell on it and much more likely to just get over it and get on with things regardless.
A woman on the other hand, while she may not say anything directly, will almost always display her displeasure in some way. Women with a direct conversational style will more likely tell you what you have done and how she feels about it. Someone with a more emotionally expressive style, while less direct, may tell you how she feels while struggling to articulate exactly what it is that you did to make her feel that way, and a lady with an indirect style will likely create distance and space…. At least until her feelings on the matter lessen. The thing with feelings, expressed or not, is that they seem to flow in cycles where they first appear, simmer, peak and then dissipate.
While one woman feels direct communication is the way to resolution, another may perceive this as too confrontational, and unhelpful labelling of one another can occur. The need of women to discuss feelings can be seen as “dramatic” – however is only usually perceived that way by the accused. We very seldom see ourselves as dramatic, but expressing valid emotion; however we can be quick to label someone else expressing themselves to us as such, particularly if we are defensive or disagree with the feelings of the other person.
I have noticed in a few of my friends, and to be fair they do seem more socially successful (even if less invested) a tendency never to speak directly to the person in question about their upset feelings. Instead they take space from that person for a time, never in an unfriendly manner, until they have had enough time to “get over” whatever it was that upset them. After which time the friendship will simply resume, although not always at the same intensity level as before. It is all very amicable.
However I have tried this approach myself, and failed. Perhaps it is the type of women I am drawn to, or the type of close friendships we build, but almost every single time I employ this strategy I am met with demands from the other person to explain my withdrawal… however subtle or gradual I try to make it. It is possible my other friends encounter this too, I’ll have to ask them and report back, however I have always felt uncomfortable with this. The way I see it, you have 2 choices. The first one is to lie and tell them everything is fine, when you both know it isn’t, and the second one is to be frank and honest. Almost conclusively leading to “dramatic” confrontation and more times than not an equally theatrical ending. Friendship exit stage left.
So if the key is in staying silent, how does that flow over into reconciliations? As someone who has indeed suffered the ending of a fair few friendships, I have also come to experience a fair few reconciliations; at which point we are again faced with the question – to speak or not to speak? At least half of the friendships that have survived the “drama” in my life, have revived themselves, almost without a word.
Consider that a friendship ends, and the 2 women stop speaking for a period of weeks, months or even years. After which time, each of you has let go of the negative feelings that caused the upset to begin with. One woman will often reach out to the other in a friendly manner. It may be to say hello, it may be to express that she has missed her friend, or it may be to share with her something of interest for example. While words are spoken, the falling out, and what caused it is largely unspoken, and if enough time has passed, it may be more comfortable to leave it that way. The friendship can resume as if nothing ever happened. The friendship is spoken, but the reconciliation remains silent.
If one friend contacts another with an apology after a falling out, she runs the risk of a rejection. And she also runs the risk of refreshing all the negativity that both people experienced with the original drama. Therefore it may seem easier and all around better for everyone if it is not spoken about. My question though, becomes, without discussing it, how will you prevent the same issues from repeating themselves? If the original conflict is never actually resolved per se, how can the friendship be resolved?
Once again, one party may be keen to speak about things while the other finds this need to communicate dramatic. Can the friendship be resumed after a falling out without speaking about things? Yes. Can the friendship survive though, or is it in for more of the same drama? Time will tell but I know where I’d place my money!
What have your experiences been? Do you speak up and hold your friends accountable, or do you keep quiet when a friend has upset or hurt you in some way? Have you told one friend she upset you while accusing another friend of causing drama for the same thing? Are the women who exclusively prefer men friends on the right track, or are they simply avoiding accountability? Think about it honestly. Leave your comments here or on Facebook and tell me what you think.
Your Best Friend ForNever