Had an argument with a close friend? Here's how to patch things up

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Even the best of friends have fights; a psychologist gives tips on how to talk things through and make up

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Arguments happen, even between good friends. Afterwards, you can’t expect to solve things right away. But don’t lose sight of the fact that the two of you like each other. Psychology experts share their advice on dealing with a best-friend blow-out.

The late French writer Simone de Beauvoir once said, “Harmony between two individuals is never granted - it has to be conquered indefinitely.”

It’s true. Even the best of friends quarrel sometimes. But how can they reestablish their harmony? As with most interpersonal problems, psychologists recommend a heart-to-heart talk. Not every quarrel must, or should, be immediately patched up, though.

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“You should calm down first. People can’t think clearly when they’re highly emotional,” says Dr Hans Onno Roettgers, chief psychologist at Giessen/Marburg University Hospital in Germany.

He advises staying away from each other for however long it takes - hours, days, weeks - for the boiled-over emotions to cool. But first you should let your friend know that you’re presently too upset for peace talks and would like to get together later.

“If this isn’t possible, as the matter must be resolved straight away, then you should take at least 20 deep breaths before you utter your first word,” Roettgers says.

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Friends who have quarrelled often forget that, when all is said and done, they really like and value each other. “You shouldn’t lose sight of this,” Roettgers says, because if you think that your friend wishes you ill, you’ll automatically go on the attack or be defensive during your talk, which is hardly conducive to reconciliation.

“In addition, you should understand that you can have different opinions and still be friends,” he says.

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Psychotherapist Johanna Thuenker says she often sees pseudo-friendships in her practice. If one of the two experiences a life crisis, the “friendship” falls apart.

“If your friendship is genuine, you’ll have a good chance of patching up a quarrel,” she says.

Psychologist Julia Scharnhorst recommends analysing the conflict before trying to talk it out. What caused it? How serious is it? How much of it is your fault? What can you do to help resolve it?

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Avoid being accusatory during your conversation. Describe the situation from your perspective, and also how you feel. This will enable your friend to see your point of view.

What you shouldn’t do, though, is to agree with your friend if you’re actually of a different mind - simply for the sake of peace. Nor should you apologise if you’re not sorry. This may placate your friend and temporarily defuse the conflict.

“It doesn’t solve the problem, however,” points out Thuenker, who says you’ve got to accept that some conflicts take a while to resolve.