Example for Expressing Conflict with a Friend

What Happened?

To resolve a conflict with a friend, we first need to separate our judgments from what actually happened. Why is this important? Because our judgments are often made up of old thoughts and feelings that cause us to react, blame and attack the other person. We project our past impressions onto our current situations. See Projections

Attack and blame escalate conflict.

To help you distinguish what happened from our judgments, we have provided some examples below.

Examples of saying what happened without judgment or blame.

You and I had plans together and then I find out that you have invited Mary to go with us.

I ran into Mary and she seemed really bummed, so I spontaneously asked her to join us.

Examples of Judgments judgments and blame about what happened

You know that she and I don't like each other. How self involved can you get, just doing what you needed and not even asking me if it was ok with me.

You are getting really pissed off at me and not even considering how it happened. How could it possible matter so much that you have to spend a little time with Mary.

Communicating only what happened without your judgments will allow the other person to hear your side of the conflict without having to go into a defensive mode. No Attack—no defense or counter attack is needed.

How did it make you feel?

In this step you identify how you feel about what happened and express your feelings in a way that allows others to hear you. Identifying how you feel can be difficult because it is easier to get caught in the blame and judgments and not be connected to how you are feeling.

Examples of feeling statements

I feel very disappointed that we did not get to spend time together and I feel discounted by you. I feel that I value our relationship more than you do and I feel angry that you do not consider my feelings when you unilaterally change plans. I felt rejected because you seemed to value Mary's feelings more than mine.

I feel angry that you are not willing to consider how I was feeling when I invited Mary. I am sorry that I have hurt you by not considering your feelings, and I feel misunderstood when you draw conclusions that are not what I feel.

What are your needs in this situation?

Although our friends actions or speech may have triggered a lot of feelings, under these feelings are needs that were unmet and caused your feelings. It's important to realize what your needs are and when they are being challenged.

In this step you are being asked to identify your own needs.

Examples of expressing needs that may not have been responded to, in the situation:

When we make a plan together, I need to feel I can depend on that happening unless we change the plan together.

I need you to respect my feelings and I need to feel that there is some room for flexibility in our plans.

Here is a list of some needs that arise in relationships and cause conflicts when they are not recognized and not expressed.

Attention: Needing the other person to be focused on and attending to what you’re are saying or doing.

Understanding: Needing others to grasp the intended meaning of your words or actions.

Contingency: Needing others to respond to your actions or words in ways that you expect.

Joining: Needing to be able to share meanings and values with another person or group.

Recognition: Needing others to see and hear you and give value to what you are doing, thinking or feeling.

Respect: Wanting others to listen and respond to your feelings and needs with the sense that they value you and treat you as an individual with your own values and boundaries.

Security: Needing to feel that your environment is safe, that you are protected and do not fear that your boundaries will be violated. Needing to feel that you matter to others, that you are cared for wanted and protected.

Dependability: Needing to feel that you can rely on others and be able to trust that they will act and speak truthfully.

Mutuality: Needing to feel a sense of balance with others that you both are giving and receiving equally.

Connection: Needing to feel on the same page with others. Needing to feel a part of a relationship or group.

Affiliation: Needing to have a sense of belonging. Needing to have friendships and feel part of a group of your peers.

Intimacy: Having a sense of closeness to certain people in your world. Feeling emotionally and physically connected.

Autonomy: Experiencing a need for independence. Wanting to do things on your own and in your own way.

What do you want the other person to understand about this situation, your feelings or needs?


I want you to understand that I felt Mary was more important to you than I was and that you valued her needs more than mine.

I want you to understand that I felt I needed to help Mary out and I thought you would understand my feelings about this.

What do you request from the other person?

Now that your have expressed what you want the other person to understand, there is an opportunity for you to ask for what you need from the other person that will help end the conflict. Focus on what you want from them; not what you don't want. Make your request clear and specific.

I request that we make an agreement that if one or the other of us needs to change a plan that we consult the other person first.

I request that when we make a plan together that we allow for some flexibility if things come up.


Examples of how to respond

An important part of effective communication is to be able to let the other person know that you understand what they mean. If you reflect back accurately, they will experience being heard by you. Often when people are heard, their upset disappears. If you do not reflect back to them accurately the conflict will remain and they will continue to feel unheard. Reflecting back only works if you are communicating what you heard with connection and understanding.Try to imagine the other persons experience so that you convey your understanding. Keep trying until the other person feels understood.

Reflecting back will:

Some Phrases used in Reflecting Back:

Here are some examples of statements which reflect your understanding back to your friend.

I understand that you felt I was not valuing you and that Mary was more important to me than you were.

I hear you saying that you thought I would understand how you felt when you asked Mary to join us. You need me to trust your own evaluations.

There are three ways to respond to the other person's request:

If you wish to counter-offer their request; state specifically what action you are willing to take to support them in having their needs met. If you wish to decline their request, be in dialogue with them to negotiate an acceptable response that will work for both of you.

Here are examples of responses to the request from your friend:

I accept the request that we consult each other before changing plans. I want to negotiate for the flexibility.

We don’t have to negotiate,  I accept your request to have some flexibility. I am relieved that you agree to consult and realize things come up and changes happen.