Smoothing over rough edges with friends

The metamessage received may be, “She doesn’t think I know how to dress myself, take care of myself.”

Chris wants to know:

How do you smooth over rough edges with friends? Do you ignore it, broach the subject, etc.?

It depends on what the topic is. Next question.

OK. But it’s true. What’s the issue at stake? Sometimes, you just let it go, and sometimes you say something. If you say something, you need to use “I” sentences, such as “I am not comfortable when you run over Bernie Sanders supporters.”

Is it an online dispute over politics? Those are usually in the “let it go” category. You’re not going to convince them, and they surely aren’t going to change your mind. Unless they’re otherwise abusive – “How can you think like that, you skank?” – move on.

I will say that if it’s really bugging me, NOT saying something almost never works. The issue metastasizes into a much bigger deal.

I’ve been reading the book “I Only Say This Because I Love You: Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs, and Kids When You’re All Adults” (2001) by Deborah Tannen, which I am enjoying, and it has applicability to non-family relationships. I’m only in the part where she lays out the problems; I trust there are solutions coming. She notes the fact that, in many conflicts, there’s the message and the metamessage.

A simple example would be when someone suggests that you do something differently, wear more fashionable clothes, e.g. The message the sender thinks she’s giving is “I’m a good friend/relative, just trying to be helpful.” The metamessage received may be, “She doesn’t think I know how to dress myself, take care of myself.” And when more than two parties are involved, in sharing secrets and creating alliances, it gets even trickier.

So I tend to tread lightly. Humans are tricky. Humans online are even complicated than humans face-to-face, when you can pick up nuance.

This usually works; I’m still friends with people I went out with. Sometimes it does not work. Interestingly, Facebook is useful in connecting, or reconnecting, with people whose friendships might otherwise have lapsed, so there’s that.

Have you ever written poetry? When? Did you ever show it to anyone?

I went out with a published poet in the late ’70s and early ’80s. So I would go to the workshops. I tried writing a few and shared them with the group, but fundamentally, I just didn’t get it, and that was fine; I have other skills.

What’s your favorite tradition at your church?

I suppose it’s the raised candles while singing the third verse of Silent Night in an otherwise darkened church on Christmas Eve.

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