Can a Friendship Survive Different Communication Styles?Last month a coaching client named Sophia said she needed to talk about a relationship that had hit a troubled patch. She started by telling me that the friendship was about a year old, so this was the first real argument they’ve had. There had been some red flags early on (lying about silly things) but she had hoped the friendship could grow past those things. Now there was a larger issue but her friend refused to communicate about what was going on.

She asked what my thoughts were, and this is what I told her:

We become friends with people for all different reasons, but especially when it’s a work friend (which this person was) then it can be a friendship of convenience and not shared values. Just like family, caring about someone doesn’t mean your lifestyles, communication styles or desires about how the relationship “should” work match up.

Sophia has a very direct communication style, just like mine. She prefers to get everything out on the table, and for everyone to be straightforward and honest about their feelings and needs. But that is the exact opposite communication style of her friend. Sophia explained that her friend has never been one to speak up when her feelings had been hurt or to communicate about boundaries being disrespected. She preferred to just sweep things under the rug and not mention any issues so that difficult conversations didn’t need to be had.

I’m sure you can see where the breakdown was happening.

Sophia has sent her friend a few emails & texts asking to discuss what had happened. But she wasn’t getting any response at all about the issue at all.

Here’s the thing, we can only control ourselves (and even then only when we’re at our best.) So Sophia was faced with a a few options –

  1. Email her friend one last time, and without wrapping it in emotional or accusatory language or tone, ask to get together to talk about what happened. Express a desire to continue the friendship (if that’s truly what’s wanted) but acknowledge your need to talk about what happened.
  2. Then, decide what your decision is going to be if a response is never given. Decide whether or not you’re willing to sweep it under the rug in order to continue the friendship, and if you’ll genuinely be able to let it go in order to move forward without ever discussing it. Or, if you are able to discuss it, but the conversation doesn’t result in what you’re looking for.
  3. If you either get no response, or you get a response that doesn’t suit you, you have to make the difficult decision of whether or not it’s worth ending the friendship over. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s not important enough to draw a line in the sand. But only you can determine the importance/value/necessity of a relationship.

Yes, it sucks when someone doesn’t respond in the way we want them too. And yes, it sucks to lose a friendship over something that you might feel could be fixed with a heart-felt conversation.

Here’s three questions you might ask yourself when trying to figure out how you want to handle the situation:

  1. Is this relationship important enough to let the issue go without discussion or without the response you want?
  2. Is the relationship more important than the personal value at stake?
  3. Will your life be negatively affected if you push the issue? (this is especially true if it’s a work place relationship & your job will be affected)

Just because someone doesn’t communicate like you, it doesn’t mean that either of you is wrong, it just might mean you’re wrong for each other.

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