Not all friendships work out. We all can’t be the sisterhood of the traveling pants, okay? Sometimes somebody (with bad taste) just decides you suck. If you’re fortunate, a friendship fizzles out slowly and imperceptibly, without any awkward requests to get that cardigan back. If you’re not-so-fortunate, your friendship is going to end in either one or a series of small confrontations. We can’t avoid breaking up with our friends or getting friend-dumped. But we can apply some rules of engagement so it’s not a complete and utter shitshow, like many a romantic breakup.
Allow me to add an honorary attachment to the Girl Code (although this certainly applies to male friends, too):
1. Thou shalt admit mistakes.
There is nothing more frustrating (to humanity in general and friendships in particular) than an inability to say “oops, I goofed.” Admitting a mistake — or worse, a series of mistakes that have become a pattern — is a really hard thing to confess. It’s obvious why: no one wants to think of herself as two-faced, unreliable, or whatever it is the mistake might be. Alas, part of being an adult is owning up to our mistakes. Denying mistakes are not only shitty to your friend (let’s not gaslight people, okay?), but it makes you look like you’re in denial. And I don’t think I need to tell you that denial is not a good look on anyone.
Action Item: Be humble enough to admit you did something wrong.
2. Thou shalt apologize.
Real, sincere apologies seem rare these days. Some people just can’t admit a mistakes in the first place (see #1), but I also think taking ownership of other people’s hurt feelings/injury tends to be seen as a weakness. There’s an arrogance in deciding that someone else’s injury is less important than your pride. It’s a lot easier to make a “I’m sorry you were offended” non-apology than to be humble about how you’ve harmed someone. Which is really a shame, because apologies don’t need to be grandiose or hugely dramatic to be effective. Even the acknowledgment of regret can really go a long way.
Action item: Don’t look at apologizing as someone else having the upper hand. Be able to say “I’m sorry for ___” directly.
3. Thou shalt ground thy grievances in reality.
As the police say in old time-y movies, “Let’s just stick to the facts, ma’am.” It doesn’t do any good to be angry about something you assume happened, even if it seems like a logical guess to you. I know it’s tempting to think up reasons why other people behave the way they do; I also know how it feels to have motives be completely misread. Part of being a kind person is giving others the benefit of the doubt. You owe it to your friends to get the facts first before being upset about something.
Action item: Resist the urge to create an explanation for why someone else behaves the way she does. Remember your assumptions may not actually be grounded in reality.
4. Thou shalt show compassion (even if the friend is behaving badly).
Seeing people as victims of their own struggles isn’t our first inclination when we feel hurt, angry or sad. But remember that old saying, “Hurt people hurt”? It’s true. It used to be difficult for me to see why a person couldn’t just magically rise above his or her shit. Then I had a huge a-ha moment a few years ago when I realized that everyone — every single one of my friends — had some kind of “issue” in his or her life. Once I fully understood that everyone has their shit to deal with, it got easier to be compassionate towards them all.
Action item: Remember that someone who hurts you has probably been badly before hurt herself.