What Can I Do About a Bad Friend?
Real Simple’s Modern Manners columnist on dealing with a disconnect between friends.
Q. Over the last few years, a good friend (who lives across the country) has become very involved with a religious organization. It is now a monumental part of her life, and it has changed her outlook on things that we used to agree on. Worse, without realizing it, she sometimes derides views that have shaped decisions I have made in the past. When she says things that are contrary to how I feel or to my own past experience, should I just ignore what she’s saying? Or should I tell her that I disagree with her but don’t want to get into an argument? I’m more introverted than my friend, so speaking up is harder for me.
A. If there’s still enough harmony between you to make the friendship worthwhile, then I think you should force yourself to say something directly to her. After all, ignoring the disconnect between the two of you clearly isn’t working (or you wouldn’t have written this letter!).
“I don’t like to argue,” you might say, “but we’ve come to have different views on many topics, and I’d appreciate it if you’d keep that in mind when we’re talking.” Your friend does not live near you, and she may have become accustomed to a new community of like-minded people. You’ll be providing her with a much needed reminder that not everyone shares her views and that ideas she may take to be self-evident are in fact controversial, so she should approach them with delicacy and respect.
If she refuses to hold back, then you might want to consider whether this friendship is worth preserving. But if she agrees to disagree, perhaps you can find some conversational common ground that’s comfortable for both of you.
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