Being neutral in a Friend Cold War isn't always the right thing to do

Have you ever had two friends who had some type of blowout and now won’t speak to one another? Maybe it’s over something really stupid, like liking Coldplay or maybe it is a friendship breaker, liking balking on reimbursing someone for Coldplay Concert Tickets.  Either way you might be caught in the middle. Sure all the pundits say to play Switzerland and stay out of it. But sometimes you cannot remain neutral because it does affect you.

Let’s say you are planning a big event, like a special birthday party, a trip to Vegas or even your annual holiday party, and your friends don’t want to come because they don’t want to run into each other. You’d think they could suck it up for one night for the greater good but one friend might think well he’ll understand if I skip this birthday party and besides, there will be others there, no one will notice my absence. The other friend is thinking the exact same thing.

And so the 10th anniversary of your 25th birthday is not as awesome as it could be because two of your besties couldn’t put aside their differences for one night to help you celebrate. And the best part? in 4-6 weeks they kiss and make up and all is right as rain with the world. Except you cannot hop in the DeLorean and go back to the night of your Bday bash and have that Night of Awesome that you were destined.

Hopefully, by the time you hit the 2nd quarter of Life on Earth, you have eliminated these Drama Llamas types from your MonkeySphere . But the reality is that life is about conflict and people tend to be selfish at least two times a day: AM and PM.

The other side of the coin is that whatever your friends are disputing may seem petty to you but it is valid to them. it is important not to dismiss their feelings while trying to navigate this delicate situation. And if they have had conflicts in the past, it’s possible that they are keeping score. Maybe you have always inadvertently sided with FriendA and this one time it really is FriendA’s fault. You playing the Switzerland Card comes off like a copout. FriendB sees it as oh you were willing to pass judgement all those other times but now when FriendA is being the WeenieHead you suddenly don’t want to take a side.

As a friend, you have a fiduciary duty to do the right thing and not be an asshole. When you play the Not-Getting-Involved Card, you are basically dismissing the validity of your friends feelings. And while it isn’t your job to play judge and jury on every little trespass, you do have the power and with that the responsibility to create a level playing field.

Two thoughts come quickly to mind:

  1. Whenever two parties are in conflict, rarely is one party solely to blame. It might be 60-40 or 70-30, but rarely is it 100-0. Sometimes Person A said or did something and Person B felt slighted. a) PersonB is too sensitive, b) PersonA was being a DBag, c) both a and b.
  2. While it is easier and sometimes appropriate to play the Switzerland card and not get involved, As a friend, you have a fiduciary duty to do the right thing and not be an asshole. When you play the Not-Getting-Involved Card, you are basically dismissing the validity of your friends feelings. And while it isn’t your job to play judge and jury on every little trespass, you do have the power and with that the responsibility to create a level playing field.

Back in college a couple friends were not getting along. Cindy was pissed at Linda because she made out with Jane’s boyfriend. Cindy gave Linda the cold shoulder for the entire Spring semester. She did everything she could to make Linda’s life uncomfortable and unpleasant.

I was thinking about Linda’s story the other day. I wasn’t there when this occurred, but according to her, Cindy put her through Hell for 16 weeks until school was over.  A lot of people in our group knew what was going on but they opted to stay out of it.  Perhaps rightly so.  But I also wonder if a gentle influence from mutual friends could have pressured Cindy to behave more graceful and treat Linda more kindly.

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