You haven’t really lived until you’ve found yourself standing, baffled, in the middle of an inexplicable war between two close friends.

Each of them has a case, and each of them puts that case to you, over and over again, and you listen and nod and sympathise. You can’t help being confused, though. You can’t help thinking that they’re really fighting over nothing, and should get over it, so you can all go to next week’s party together and have a nice time.

So what do you do, when you’re caught between two beefing friends? Is it possible to soothe everyone’s feelings without anyone getting more upset than they already are?

The good news is, yes! It totally is. But once emotions are in turmoil it’s easy for them to spiral, so here are some tips for keeping the road smooth.

1. Listen

Amy Schumer listening

The first one seems easy. A lot of things seem easy, really, but very few things actually are, and listening is not one of them. It’s easy to listen when your goal is simply finding the next point in the conversation when you can talk. It’s easy to listen when someone is telling an interesting story, and all you have to do is react. But listening intently, and considering someone else’s feelings and point of view is harder than you think.

No matter how baffling the conflict in question is, and no matter who you think is more wrong or right in the situation, if you don’t start out by listening properly, you won’t get anywhere. You can’t help anyone if you don’t understand where they’re coming from.

2. Feel

New Girl hug gif

While the first step on the road to reconciling your battling friends takes only concentration, step two requires a little more. Namely: tact and empathy.

You will need both to figure out when each friend is talking about important things, like their feelings and when they’re basically just venting. Everyone needs a safe space to vent, on the understanding that the venting goes no further. Vent sessions are Vegas, and what happens there stays there – your role is just to accept the flow of rage and help release it into the ether. Feelings, however, need to be worked through and understood. People have been hurt, and hurt needs to be respected.

3. Mediate

Be quiet

This is the point when a really delicate touch is necessary. Here, you are trying to get two people, separated by presumably many angry words, and behind-the-back slaggings off, and horrible things that were never actually done or said but which each has imagined the other one doing or saying, back together. It is part of the human condition that, while we know that most of our own actions are haphazard, spontaneous and totally unconsidered, we still tend to assume that other people plan every move and every syllable – so if they hurt us, they must have meant to do it. But actually they are bumbling through as much as we are.

You, as the person who has heard both sides of the story, can reassure everyone how much stuff was said in the heat of the moment, how much regret each person is feeling, and (carefully) what they might have done that needs apologising for.

Btw, it is important here to note that none of the venting needs to be communicated. Venting is sacred, what you say when you vent is rarely what you actually feel, it is nothing more than the popping of the boil of emotion. And unless you are willing to carry around the fluid from that boil and bring it out at dinner parties, you should not be repeating vent talk.

4. Buffering

Chocolate

Now things can get a little more fun. Once the dust has settled, once some of the wounds have healed a bit, you can gently start pushing your two friends back into the shallow waters of generally hanging out. You don’t want to do anything too dramatic to start with, not a lavish party or a weekend in Majorca. A girls’ night in is a good idea, with hot chocolates and movies and enough snacks to feed Hagrid.

The film selection is key – you want something good enough that any awkward silences can be easily pushed past, and unimportant enough that no one will mind if you end up talking all the way through it.

5. Just keep swimming

High five

A strange truth is that the best way to get yourself out of an awkward social situation is to pretend it is not awkward, until it simply stops being so. It is time for jokes. Gentle teasings that show how affectionate you all are for each other, stories about what’s been going on in everyone’s lives that gently gloss over the old rift. Before you know it, all will be forgotten and, if you’re lucky, you’ll all be better friends than you were before.

Friends fight for all sorts of reasons, and it’s always the worst – whether you’re one of the battlers, or whether you’re stuck in the no man’s land in between. But nothing lasts forever, and working through a fight is almost always worth it.

@J9andlf

Festival season has well and truly arrived, and you couldn’t be more excited to spend your weekends listening to great music in muddy fields – when you actually manage to get tickets, that is.

But sometimes the festival Gods just aren’t on your side; the passes sell out too fast, your cash flow is lower than low, or your mum has put her foot down because it’s the sixth time this summer you’re dodging your Saturday job to spend two days doing nothing but watching your favourite bands.

We’ve all been there, but what makes matters worse is that you know ALL your mates will be going, and you’ll need to listen to them going on about what a great time they had for weeks after. Yep, festival FOMO is real, and these are its emotional stages…

1. Denial

That awkward moment when all your mates managed to bag tickets and you didn’t – but you’re totally FINE with it. FIIIIIIIINE.

2. Resentment

“How on Earth could Becky afford to go when she just went to Glastonbury and she doesn’t even have a weekend job?! Bet her parents bought her tickets, spoiled brat.”

3. Fear

What if your non-appearance taints your social status? What if your buds have loads of new in-jokes and ‘you had to be there’ moments afterwards? WHAT IF SOMEONE SNOGS THE GUY YOU REALLY FANCY AND YOU’RE NOT THERE TO STOP IT?! So many possible, terrible, ridiculous scenarios are running through your mind right now.

4. Sadness

It would have been such a great weekend with your friends. You’ve always wanted to see that headliner. Tiny tears are escaping from your eyes and you don’t know how to stop them.

5. Acceptance

It’s cool. You don’t actually like The 1975 anyway, so a real fan should benefit from being able to get tickets, rather than you standing miming the words to Somebody Else when you don’t really know them.

6. Relief

It’s chucking it down with rain on festival weekend and all your pals have had to buy emergency wellies and waterproofs. Meanwhile, you’ll be at home, sipping tea and binge-watching Glow on Netflix. Phew.

7. Boredom

Literally everyone is at the festival. You have nobody to hang with all weekend. You’re actually considering doing the food shop with your mum, even though you’re still mad at her for not letting you go. What is life?

8. Envy

WHY ARE THEIR INSTAGRAM STORIES ALL SO GOOD?! *Unfollows*

9. Annoyance

If you have to see one more message on the group chat about someone being lost and trying to make a meeting point you’ll scream. Ditto all the photos they’re sharing with each other – just make another group, guys.

10. Smugness

It’s all over Twitter that Bieber cancelled his set. That’s the main reason your girls were going. LOL.

11. Overwhelming happiness

Your friends are back! They still like you! Nobody snogged your non-boyfriend! Now when’s the next event you need to try and buy tickets for? You’re NOT missing out again.

Image: Getty

I’ve never been very good at fancying people.

The awkwardness of really wanting your crush to know that you like them so you can actually be together, while at the same time being absolutely terrified of them finding out, is a struggle. And although I’ve always considered myself a total pro at advising my friends on this sort of thing, I’ve always been pretty bad at dealing with my own heartache.

The guy I fell hardest for took up a good year and a half of my secondary school existence, which, as we all know, feels like about five gazillion years when you’re 13 and convinced you’re in love.  

Don’t get me wrong, I did my best to live the rom-com cliché. I doodled our names in big fat hearts on the inside cover of my maths book. I found out his star sign and searched a bunch of astrology websites until I found one that said we were compatible.

Once he hugged me for a really long time at a party and then held my hand for a bit, which was pretty huge. I happened to be wearing brand new knickers that day and came to the conclusion that from that moment on, those very knickers would be known as my magical lucky knickers and that I’d obviously have to wear them on any occasion that could result in further one-on-one time with the crush boy.

(FYI – the effort of doing that much washing for the sake of a potential snog really isn’t worth the daily questioning you’ll definitely get from whoever presides over the household laundry basket.)

I had butterflies and googly eyes whenever he was within a 100-metre radius and I even bought an album by his favourite band and pretended to like their music so we’d have more to talk about. You know, if ever I managed to form actual sentences in his presence rather than the standard uncomfortable smile and really enthusiastic nod, that is.

Now, you’re probably thinking one of two things: ‘you’re really tragic and you weren’t lying about not being good at fancying people’ or ‘OMG, you have literally described my life’.

This crush business is a minefield, you guys. On top of all that, of course, there’s the stress of not knowing whether or not they fancy you back.

Unfortunately, even after all of my best efforts, it turned out that he did not fancy me back. And no, it wasn’t because he found out about the weird magic pants situation. It was because he fancied one of my best mates. Awks.

I noticed that he started to hang around with my group of friends more and naturally I assumed it was because I was an exceptionally good hand-holder. But then one day he got his friend to ask me if my BFF was interested in him.

A word of advice on how to handle this sort of situation: do not, I repeat, do NOT pretend to fancy your crush’s friend.

Somewhere between feeling really rubbish about crush boy not liking me and having to pretend to be happy for my best mate, I made the awful decision to then try and prove that I was completely fine with it all. I pretended that in fact I never liked him anyway, thanks, and actually it was his friend I fancied all along.

Word of my false love interest got around pretty quickly, which in the end resulted in two broken hearts and a whole lot of resentment towards our respective best mates who then started going out with each other.

I’d love to say that after that disaster, I was suddenly completely over Crush Boy and powered through the rest of school without so much of a fluttery heartbeat. I’d love to say that… but it’s never that easy, is it?

What I did learn over the years though, is that the process of having a crush isn’t always bad news.

Sure, it’s mega cringeworthy at times and you might go through periods when it feels like there is not a single human on earth who could possibly be as beautifully perfect as whoever it is you happen to be into – but once you come out the other side still standing, you realise that even though crushes are hard work, they’re also pretty great. Fancying people is quite exciting. And whether it works out or not, at the very least they make for really good group WhatsApp chats with your mates.

Just think twice before committing to the same pair of pants forever. Apparently it doesn’t work very well…

@JazKopotsha

Image: Manjit Thapp

We don’t like to gossip, but… have you heard what this lot are saying? Here are 12 famous faces (who let’s face it, ought to know) on the highs and lows of the rumour mill.

“People gossip. People are insecure, so they talk about other people so that they won’t be talked about. They point out flaws in other people to make them feel good about themselves. I think at any age or any social class, that’s present.”

Blake Lively sums it up perfectly – as we’d expect from a Gossip Girl.

“I have been hearing gossip and lies since I began working. When I was 17, I used to get very angry because I opened a magazine and I saw myself in a picture on a motorcycle, and the headline was, ‘I’m getting married next month.'”

Did you at least get some presents out of it, Penelope Cruz?

“Every week I read about myself in a magazine, about something that I haven’t done or some place that I’ve never been or don’t even know. It’s just gossip, rumors, egos, and politics.”

Hilary Duff there, with a handy reminder not to believe what you read. Except on betty.

“If you want to know how far gossip travels, do this – take a feather pillow up on a roof, slice it open, and let the feathers fly away on the wind. Then go and find every single feather and re-stuff the pillow.”

Actress and singer Rebecca Pidgeon knows the true cost of gossip. Which might be why you haven’t heard of her.

“I always read fan accounts instead of the news because they have all the info and make the funniest jokes about it, so that’s how I get my gossip – by stalking fans.”

Meanwhile Gigi Hadid likes a bit of gossip, as long as it’s funny.

“I guess rumours are more exciting than the truth.”

Game, set and match to Venus Williams.

“I perpetuate rumours that I’ve dated people that I’ve never actually dated.”

Hang on Ginnifer Goodwin, you mean that wasn’t true about you and Prince Harry?

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Oscar Wilde knew that gossip was a double-edged sword.

“If people talk behind your back, it’s because you’re ahead of them.”

This piece of wisdom might explain why Zayn Malik left 1D first…

“I can’t stop the rumors from starting, and I can’t really change people’s minds who believe them. All I can do is sit back and laugh at these low life people who have nothing better to do than talk about me.”

You’re so right, Beyonce. Although we’ll be honest, some days it legit does feel as though we have nothing better to do than talk about you.

“When celebs get pestered by paparazzi why don’t they just start singing “Hey Jude” or some incredibly expensive song to clear?”

Mindy Kaling has the genius solution to celebrity privacy invasion: copyright law.

“Gossip, as usual, was one-third right and two-thirds wrong.”

When it came to gossip, Anne of Green Gables author LM Montgomery knew the score.

 

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And let’s be honest, you probably like that little tingle of validation you get when your mate asks to borrow your nail varnish because they like the colour, or when they ask you to style their hair for them because they like the way you do yours. It’s a great self-esteem boost.

But what happens when they copy everything you do, all the time? Whether they’re copying your style, mimicking your mannerisms or declaring their undying love for your fave band which they’ve only just heard of, it gets tedious fast, so it’s perfectly normal to feel upset and annoyed.

In some ways, it even feels like a betrayal. Friends are supposed to admire each other’s uniqueness, not steal their self-expression. You put the time and effort into finding your own style, so when someone comes along and straight up copies you, it’s like identity theft – like they’re cheating. Grr!

So you’re pretty pissed off, but you’re not alone. Almost everyone we asked has had a copycat friend at some point, ranging from the fairly tame (“she got the same coat as me – her mum agreed to buy it because she thought I was a good influence”) to the downright bizarre (“I was a model and my friend contacted everyone I’d ever worked with and recreated all of my shoots”). One girl even told us her friend dressed up like her and tried to steal her boyfriend! “I felt like she was trying to replace me with herself,” she says. “Everyone else would just laugh it off, but I felt like I was going mad.”

But as infuriating as it is to be the copied, it’s likely that things for the copier aren’t that great either. Being a teenager is really hard and everyone is trying to figure out their place in the world, but the chances are, your copycat mate is struggling with their self-identity, insecurities and self-esteem more than most. Copying you is their way of ‘borrowing’ the self-esteem they imagine you have.

“I’m not proud to admit it, but I copied my best friend constantly when we were in school,” says Sarah. “She was so cool and confident and I felt like such a loser compared to her, so I figured that if I wore the same clothes and listened to the same music I’d be cooler, too. The fact is that it didn’t make me feel any different inside – I was kind of just clutching at straws. What’s worse is that in hindsight I can see that how I behaved made me look even lamer.”

It’s a tricky situation, then. If your mate is copying you because she’s feeling low about herself, you don’t want to make things worse by making a big deal about it, but at the same time, your identity is yours, dammit! So what should you do?

Be patient

Once you’ve noticed your friend copying you, wait it out for a week or two – your mate is probably going through a phase on the way to developing their own style and it might not last that long.

Compliment them

Give them lots of positive reinforcement about the things that make them unique. If you’ve always liked their hair or love their shoe collection, tell them! This will help them realise they’re making good choices on their own without having to copy you.

Keep a few things to yourself

We’re not saying you should clam up completely, but if you’re a bit vague about the things she’s likely to end up copying, she’ll have to look elsewhere for inspiration. For example, if she rings you to ask what you’re wearing at the weekend, just say you haven’t decided yet. If you’ve got a public playlist you’re always adding new music to, make it private for a while. This way she’ll have to try things out for herself (and complimenting her choices will help too, no need to be mean about it).

Enlist the help of a trusted friend

It might be tempting to get another friend on board for a good ol’ bitchfest, but that won’t change things in the long run – in fact, it’ll probably just make things worse for everyone involved. Instead, confide in a friend you trust and ask them, next time the copying crops up, to gently highlight it: ‘Isn’t that the same jacket as Gemma’s?’ or ‘Didn’t Sally tell that joke last week?’ Sometimes, copycat friends get a kind of tunnel vision, so a nudge from someone outside of their bubble can give them the jolt they need to change their ways.

Confront your friend

If the copying continues, you’ll have to talk to your friend, otherwise the bubbling resentment could ruin your friendship. Have a conversation in private and keep it light-hearted – they might be a little defensive at first. Try something like: “I noticed you’ve been wearing and buying a lot of the same things as me lately. Sometimes it’s okay, but the whole point of these things is to highlight your own unique style. That won’t happen if you’re getting everything that I’m getting!”

Take a break

If the copying continues even after you’ve spoken to her about it, it might be time to take a step back from the friendship. That doesn’t mean ditching her completely, but spending time around other people will help her expand her style horizons and give you the chance to cool off.

And remember…

The way you express yourself through fashion and music is important, but you’re so much more than your outfit and favourite bands – you’re completely unique without them as well! Just keep doing you. Your friend will find herself eventually.

@RachelEngland

Image: Getty

Ahh jealousy: the green-eyed monster – the “ulcer of the soul” according to Socrates, a philosopher, poet and all-round ancient wise guy.

The fact that Socrates was born in circa 470 BC in Athens gives you some idea of just how old and stubborn this monster is. It is universal. And when our old pal William Shakespeare first coined the phrase ‘the green-eyed monster’ in Othello, he added “it mocks the meat it feeds on” – that is: you. Ouch.

Basically, there are no winners in jealousy; nothing to be gained. The object of your envy continues to ace life/love/work/the whole shebang, while you just flail around and feel bad about yourself. 

So is there way to prevent it? Or, when that queasy green feeling hits the pit of your stomach, make it disappear? Well, one thing that’s really important to remember when it comes to envy is that you are not alone: we’ve all felt it, and lots of us have even lost friends over it. But, from the best of my experience and those whose brains I have picked, here’s my best advice for keeping the monster at bay.

Say your congrats immediately 

Celebrate with them, whatever it is you’re obsessing over. As with any task in life, the longer you leave it the harder it is. You’ll start to look bitter, then you’ll feel more bitter, fearing that people might think that you’re bitter – and so on and so on into a green hole of ill feeling and pain.

Go the extra mile

If you can bear to meet the new boyfriend/girlfriend you’re so jealous of, then do it – they might make a great mate. They might have great mates. Likewise, if a celebration’s in order, be the one to send a card, or organise a surprise party. You’ll feel good about yourself, and they’ll love you for it. You know that saying, fake it ’til you make it? It’s the same with emotions. Act like you’re thrilled for them and have no jealousy whatsoever and pretty soon you’ll start to feel that way, too.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em… 

One of the bestselling self-help books of all time is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It does exactly what it says on the cover, looking at everything from time management to ambition to healthy eating habits, and gives advice on how we can do them ourselves. Look beyond the success of the person you envy to the habits they have instead – and steal those habits. Maybe they’re early risers. Maybe they keep a to-do list. Look, listen and copy. Success rarely happens by chance. 

…or don’t join em. At all. 

Climb your own mountain! Whatever the object of your envy is doing – be it a sport, an instrument or an essay title – do something else. If it’s their wardrobe you’re loving so much, find your own style instead; open your eyes to other potential crushes; play a new tune. You won’t have time to worry about their victories if you’re working towards your ones, and your friendship will be stronger for it. Not everyone can be Serena and Venus Williams, so quit trying. 

Count your achievements

Actually don’t just count them – write them down, and reflect on each one. Yep, this is a bit immodest, but hey – no one’s looking, and the main source of jealousy is insecurity about your own worth. As any genuine interview with any celebrity will ever tell you, we all feel insecure now and again. If quietly listing your own successes is a way to fight that, then go for it: it’s only arrogance if you go trumpeting that list in people’s faces. Look at the list every morning until the envy is gone – and if you need to, listen to I Am What I Am while you do it and channel the fierceness of a five drag queens.

There you go. Better now?

@finney_clare 

I’ll be the first to admit that every now and again, when the scrolling of my *enter any social media platform here* feed becomes aimless and automatic, rather than actually interesting, I’ll have a clear-out.

Much like the annual clear-out of my underwear drawer, sometimes an online clear-out is just necessary. As the years go on you realise that you’re not actually bothered about what the girl-who-you-sat-next-to-in-Maths-in-Year-7-then-never-spoke-to-you-again is getting up to now, and you can’t actually deal with any more tweets about football from the boy-you-met-at-a-friend’s-party-once-and-followed-because-he-was-a-bit-fit anymore. So you unfriend/unfollow them. Done. Sorted. Easy.

But, what happens when you want to unfriend someone in real life? Like, an actual friend you speak to and hang out with? There’s no button for that. No easy way out. But it can be done…

Is it ok to unfriend someone, or am I instantly a bad person?

No, you’re not instantly a bad person. Sometimes friendships just fizzle out, and people change or want different things. Suddenly they’re into house music and you’re still pining for a Girls Aloud reunion, or they deleted their Pokémon Go app and you are 100% not ready to stop catching ‘em all. And that’s ok. In that case, you’ll probably both drift away from each other naturally with no hard feelings.

But sometimes the feeling isn’t mutual. I spoke to Irene S. Levine, a psychologist and writer on friendships, and she said to remember that, “Friendships are voluntary relationships and should be mutually satisfying.” Irene is so right. You shouldn’t have to force yourself through a friendship if you’re not feeling it. That’s not fair on either of you.

How do I unfriend someone who’s horrible to me, and I’m a bit scared of them?

If someone is intentionally nasty to you, either publicly or privately, then you are totally justified to unfriend them. 

Irene suggests that taking control and being direct with this person about your feelings and wishes may be best, but if you’re worried about being physically or verbally threatened then speak to a trusted adult about the situation first. If you definitely don’t want to be direct with this friend, then you can try to quietly distance yourself from them by hanging out with others. Irene emphasises that “you don’t owe that person a lengthy explanation” – and you really don’t. It’s ok to put your safety and feelings first.

How do I unfriend someone if there’s nothing wrong with them, but I just don’t really want to hang around with them anymore?

Have you started putting your bag next to you on the bench when you see them walking over? Or hear yourself wince when their name appears on your phone? Yeah, it might be a sign that this friendship isn’t all rainbows and smiles, and it’s best to nip it in the bud before you start being out-and-out horrible to them or act like you’re swatting away a fly.

Irene says, “Sometimes it’s best to gradually spend less time with the other person or see them for briefer periods or see them as part of a group. It’s also perfectly fine to tell a friend that you want to expand your circle of friends.”

You could get all hippy and ‘I want to find myself’ on them before running off to Thailand*, or continue to politely decline their invitations of hanging out until they get bored of asking (or you run out of excuses). Whether you’re direct or not, there isn’t really a nice way around it. Just remember that it’s healthy in the long run.

You might even find that by spending a little less time with them, you’re happy and don’t need to cut ties. Sometimes we all need a break from people. We have those friends we could be with 24/7, and other friends who are maybe a bit full on and your head can only deal with a few hours. And that’s fine!

*ok, the other side of the school

Are you sure I won’t hurt their feelings?

There’s no guarantee it’ll be plain sailing, but hopefully they’ll understand that friendships change and you’re not to blame. Then they’ll use a photo of your face as a dartboard.

JOKING.

Hopefully…

If they do take it really badly, then maybe it’s a sign that this was the right thing to do. But it’ll likely be fine and any awkwardness will settle. You’ll both hang out with other friends and, who knows, you might even be on the same path in a few years and be best buddies again.

Hold on, I’VE been unfriended. Why?! What did I do?!

“If you know you said or did something wrong, apologise as soon as possible,” Irene says. “Or, perhaps, it was something you didn’t do or say that you should have!” Basically, the best thing is to just ask. It might be easier said than done, but if you’re hurt and confused then you have a right to ask what’s going on. Hopefully you can have a good conversation about it, but if not then it may be best to just let it lie, at least for the time being.

And remember, people change. Try not to not jump to the easy conclusion of: OMG WHAT DID I DO, WHAT DID I SAY, AM I AWFUL?! Reflecting on Irene’s advice is great if you’re on either side of this often uncomfortable and awkward situation.

(I’m still holding out for that Girls Aloud reunion…)

You can find Irene on Twitter, @irenelevine, and at www.TheFriendshipBlog.com.

@louisejonesetc

Image: Manjit Thapp

Growing up, I was always a teensy bit jealous of the way my male friends handled their disagreements. They’d have an argument, sometimes a shouting match, sometimes even a bit of a scrap, and then that would be that. They’d move on; friends again, as if nothing had happened.

Now I’m not saying I wanted to go around putting my friends in headlocks (well… maybe it seemed tempting sometimes) but the boys’ method looked so simple compared to the way I tried to handle things. Brought up to always be ‘nice’, and scared my friends might ditch me if we argued, I avoided telling people that I disagreed with them, or that the face they had pulled at my new (totally awesome by the way) school bag had upset me.

Instead, I’d sit there feeling cross and upset until eventually the feelings faded away. But, looking back, I was probably pretty sulky and snappy in the meantime. No fun for anyone. And lot of girls I’ve spoken to have told me they feel the same.   

Emma Gleadhill is a speaker and coach who helps young people to manage their relationships. She says it’s not surprising that girls can struggle with conflict, especially given how we’re often raised and what we deal with in society.  

“Everyone is different, of course, but research shows that parents are more likely to stop girls who are getting a bit rough with each other than boys. So girls grow up less practised at dealing with conflict. Also, if you look for female role models in the media who are assertive and powerful but also kind, there aren’t very many. The media often portrays strong women as nasty – like with Hilary Clinton in the US election. Girls feel like they’re walking a really fine line: trying to speak up about their feelings and get what they need, but not come across as aggressive.”  

Emma also says that fear of friends ditching you is also very normal among girls. “When they’re going through puberty, girls tend to seek out very close best friendships, and those friendships are so important to them that they don’t want to rock the boat. So tensions underneath the surface bubble away and what started off as an honest friendship can become quite a fake one, where both people are actually pretty unhappy.” 

As I’ve grown up, I’ve gradually become more comfortable with conflict. Now I see it as something healthy and empowering. I stand up for myself and what I believe in. I even tell my friends if they’ve upset me. And guess what? Nobody’s ditched me yet. In fact, my strongest friendships are with the people I feel I can be totally honest with.  

But getting to this stage has taken a fair bit of practice. And man, do I wish I’d started earlier. It would have saved me a whole lot of upset (not to mention all the hours I wasted secretly fuming). 

So, just in case you fancy getting a bit better at it, too, Emma has shared her top tips for dealing with conflict in a healthy way. Go on, give it a go. You deserve to be heard. 

1. Practise being assertive

The skills we use in healthy conflict, like quick thinking, responding thoughtfully and speaking up, can be built up with practice. It’s a bit like exercising a muscle. Set yourself little targets that will develop your skills and confidence. You can start really small, like putting your hand up in class to answer a question.

2. Learn from the best

Conflict doesn’t always have to involve difficult conversations or emotions. Some people debate with others just for fun. Find those people and watch how they go about things. It could be your relatives having a passionate discussion about the best way to make the Christmas gravy, or the members of your school debate team arguing about a hot topic in the news. Take note. 

3. Stand up for yourself in the moment

If someone says or does something you don’t like, try saying ‘Ouch!’ or ‘Ooh – can I have that in writing?!’ It’s a small comment, so it probably won’t cause a huge fight, but it immediately shows the other person that you didn’t like their behaviour. This is a great way to start setting boundaries with your friends without being too heavy about it.

4. Don’t let things brew

Unless you can genuinely forgive and forget the comment, it’s best to talk to the other person about it sooner rather than later. Take some time to process how you’re feeling but don’t leave things for weeks on end. The longer you bottle up your emotions, the more likely you are to lash out at the other person, and the worse they’ll feel when you reveal how long you’ve been upset for. 

5. Have a plan

If you’re nervous about the conversation, it can help to really think through what you want out of it and how you’re going to make your points. If you have a good relationship with a parent or somebody older, share your plan and ask for their thoughts or advice.

6. Choose the perfect place

Try to talk to the other person face-to-face and somewhere relatively private. There’s no risk of either of you losing face in front of your classmates, which means you should have a more honest conversation, and you’re more likely to find a solution together if you’re just concentrating on each other.  

7. Be flexible

Once you get into the conversation, you probably won’t be able to stick exactly to your plan, and that’s ok. Healthy conflict is as much about listening to the other person as it is about getting your own points across. They might have a good explanation for their behaviour (maybe their family is going through a tough time) but you won’t get to hear it if you’re ranting at them. Try to think of the conversation as an opportunity to work the problem out together. *Try*.   

8. Be real

If you’re confronting a friend who you want to stay on good terms with, tell them you value their friendship and that you want to sort things out so you can stay friends. But don’t be afraid to let them know the consequences if they don’t change their ways. You could say something like: “I need you to understand how I feel because the future for our friendship isn’t looking great if this sort of stuff keeps happening.”

9. Stick to the facts

Focus on things that the other person can’t argue with, like an example of what they did and how it made you feel: “When you said my hair looked stupid this morning it made me feel self-conscious.” Try to avoid insults (“You were such a cow this morning”) and generalisations (“You’re always making fun of me”), as they’ll only get the other person fired up. Plus, they’re easier to deny than actual facts.

10. Stop things escalating

If you feel like a situation is about to get out of hand, take five deep, slow breaths. This will help to slow your heart rate down, meaning you’re less likely to lash out. Next, try to look at the situation from a different angle. Is it really about you? What’s going on with the other person? If you’re too overwhelmed by your emotions to act calmly, make your excuses and get out of there.

11. Stick to your guns

The other person might try to brush off the thing that you’re upset about, but it’s important to keep making your point until you feel you’ve been heard. Try something like, “You might have meant it as a joke but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it made me feel upset.”

12. Look to the future

Always try to end conflict with a plan for how you’ll move forward together, listening to each other’s needs and being good friends to each other in the future. Congratulations – you’re now a confrontation pro. 

@LucindaEverett

Emma Gleadhill runs workshops in schools helping young people to handle their relationships.

First you saw the event – ‘near you’, not ‘invited to’ – on Facebook. Then you overheard those people you thought were your mates, discussing what they were going to wear and who might get with who. You hold out hope for an invite: none comes and then finally, to add insult to the indignity, someone asks you if you’ve been invited to so-and-so’s party.

No, you say, you haven’t. Cue awkward silence.

Maybe it’s a mistake. Maybe they simply forgot to invite you. It’s easy enough to do, particularly on Facebook. But if you want my advice, it would be not to go down this particular route. If it is a mistake, that will probably at some point emerge and either be sorted out, or apologised for. But if it’s not, you’ll only open yourself up to further misery if you force the issue only to find out so-and-so has definitely, actively not invited you.

What do you do then? Well for one thing you should make alternative plans – and no, these should not be ‘lying in bed feeling sorry for yourself’. My dad, bless his heart, has the emotional grasp of a park bench, but when Emily Richards missed me off her invite list, even he sensed the pain I was going through (the closed bedroom door and muffled sobs gave the game away) and knew I needed something to do.

I’ve loved the Nutcracker for as long as I can remember. There was a showing that evening, and a table for two at Italian restaurant ASK. He and I rarely hung out one-on-one – we’re a big family – but that evening, we were a duo. The sheer novelty of that, the anticipation of my beloved penne al pollo della casa, and the spellbinding thrill of the Sugar Plum Fairy blew all thoughts of Emily Richards out of the water. There have been, there will be, many other parties. That evening with my dad was one I’ll never forget. 

So that’s one idea. I don’t necessarily mean the ballet and the penne al pollo della casa (the calzone is also excellent, btw) – I mean the principle of spending time with a relative you don’t often spend time with. It could be your brother, mum, cousin or aunt. It could be a whole gang of you. When was the last time you cooked for your family, or rallied them into some board games? It might not sound as cool and bantz-filled as the Richards’ place, but trust me: investing in family time will yield far greater return than investing in schoolmates who haven’t invited you to their Christmas do.

My third tip – in case the prospect of time with the fam jam fills you with total horror – is to find who else hasn’t been invited and make them your friend for the night. There are three advantages to this strategy: you’ll be socialising, you can commiserate with each other (though make this brief, it does not do to dwell) on the lack of invite, and you may, by the end of the evening, have made a new or a closer friend. I did this only the other week, in fact, with a girl I don’t see that much, and not only did we make ourselves feel better but we even found ourselves laughing at the self-importance of the man – ok, boy – holding this apparently exclusive party just up the road. 

Because that’s the other thing you need to think about when your invite doesn’t arrive: what kind of friend leaves you out of a party without explanation?

There are some excuses – restrictions on space, parental rules, catering – but if one hasn’t been offered, then that person is just not a friend. You don’t need them in your life, making you feel inferior to the rest of the world. And FYI, while it might feel like the rest of the world has been invited, they haven’t. This is just a handful of people who on one evening partied without you. In universal terms, this is space dust. There’ll be many, many more Christmas parties during the course of your lifetime, and the chances are most of them will be infinitely better than Emily Richards’ will be. The Christmas party doesn’t exist: for better or for worse, Christmas comes every year.

So hang on in there. Your lack of invitation doesn’t make you a lesser person: it’s not what happens to us in life, but how we respond it it that defines us. That’s why Emma and I ate a whole Waitress cheesecake, each, that afternoon.

Months later, I found out why I’d not been invited to Emily Richards’ party: she told me she was worried the guy she liked would fancy me instead. False flattery? Probs, but I’ll take it anyway. Often, exclusivity says more about the insecurities of the host than it does about you.

@finney_clare

I’ve done plenty of things I’m not proud of. There was ‘Christmas Shopping Gate’, when I flipped out after one too many shoves from passers-by, and started barging through the crowds shouting ‘EXCUUUUUSE ME!’ while accidentally-on-purpose bashing them with my bags. (I blame PMT). Then there was the day I teased my friend so mercilessly she kicked the wall in frustration and broke her toe.

But if there’s one thing that truly makes me shrivel up into a little shame-raisin (how gross would they taste on your granola?), it’s this: I was a bully.

I know. Disgusting. It didn’t last long (just a few months, aged 11) and I wasn’t the worst bully I’ve seen (not that any level is acceptable) but I was pretty horrid. Psychological bullying was my thing: humiliating and excluding anyone I saw as less cool than me, which was pretty much everyone, since I thought I was ‘it’.

A few years later, I got a taste of my own medicine. My bully taunted me for about a year, and I had to work hard to rebuild the confidence she knocked out of me with every sneer. But I got there.

These days, I’m nice. Promise. I give people hugs and cake and shoulders to cry on. I even smile at people who bump me in the street… sometimes. But I can’t undo my bullying days. And that still makes me ashamed.

But there is one thing I can do: help you if you’re being bullied. Because I probably know a bit about how you’re feeling, and your bully too. So here are some tips from a former bully to you, with a big old dose of sorry, and an even bigger hug.

“Oh… it’s nothing”

Bullying can be anything from a push in the corridor to a whispered insult. Don’t brush it off, worrying that you’re overreacting. You’re not. If you’re regularly being made to feel scared, uncomfortable or upset, it’s ‘something’.

It’s not about you

Seriously. I know it’s hard to believe; when someone’s picking apart everything that makes you you, well that kiiiind of feels like it might be about… well… you. But trust me: most bullies are going through stuff themselves. When I was a bully, it was tension at home. My own bully was about to move schools. It’s not an excuse, but it might help you realise that their nastiness isn’t about you not being clever, funny, or nice enough. You’re all of those things. And more.

Summon your squad

Surround yourself with people who make you feel good and ask them for support. That could mean feeding you an endless supply of chocolate or dreaming up creative nicknames for your bully. My personal fave is Trunchtrump: the unfortunate lovechild of Donald Trump and Miss Trunchbull. Don’t actually call your bully names, though – you don’t want to be as bad as them.

Be assertive

Childline says assertiveness is ‘being able to stand up for yourself without being aggressive.’ Stand in front of a mirror and practise saying what you want or don’t want, calmly and clearly: ‘That’s my bag and I want it back’. Next, write down everything you’d like to ask or tell your bully. Then, if you want to, tell them for real. You definitely don’t have to – it’s not your responsibility to ‘solve’ the bullying – but it could make you feel like a major girl boss. Plus, it’ll give your bully some food for thought. I bullied people I knew wouldn’t challenge me. If they had, I’m not sure I’d have picked on them again.

Tell an adult

I know, I know. The thought of your parent or teacher stepping in is as awks as having your first kiss in front of your nan. While she livestreams it to your whole school. Then there’s the fear your bully will find out you told. But, as Kidscape explain, ‘schools can put a stop to bullying without the bully learning who told, especially if the bully has several targets.’ Take a breath and tell someone you trust. Like… now.

Know you’re not alone

SO many people are going through the same thing; you just have to find them. Search YouTube for people sharing their stories, or join Childline’s message boards – a great place to chat and get advice.

Boost your confidence

Find things that make you feel better about yourself. Help someone with a problem, write down your best qualities (come on, you know there’s something), or try something new. Joining a club outside of school can give you a real confidence boost and a whole new set of friends. When I was being bullied, I joined a theatre group. It was super-fun and, the next time my bully called me boring or fat, I found it that little bit easier to see that she was lying.

It won’t last forever

Remember that this will be over eventually and won’t hold you back in the long run. Ask older people you look up to whether they were ever bullied (I bet at least one says yes) or read the bullying stories of celebs like Obama, Emma Watson and Ri Ri. And don’t just wish the time away. Plan the amazing future you’ll have and get cracking on achieving it. Working towards some goals will boost your confidence and keep you distracted. And when you achieve them, it’ll feel even sweeter.

@LucindaEverett

I am a champion grudge holder. It’s not something to be proud of, but I hold onto feelings of anger and resentment like vertigo sufferers hold onto the safety bars on rollercoasters.

Years ago, one friend asked me why I’m always a bit chippy and weird with a mutual acquaintance. “Because she got really flirty with your boyfriend in 2006, remember? She tried to snog him!” My friend had forgotten this incident and couldn’t even remember going out with the boy in question. But I stewed, and struggled to forget something that happened 10 years ago – something that didn’t even directly involve me.

So it’s embarrassing, but not surprising, to admit that I only just ‘forgave’ my ex best friend for being mean to me, even though we haven’t spoken since we were taking our GCSEs, over half my lifetime ago.

When I started secondary school, Kirsty* (*not her real name) was one of my new classmates and I desperately wanted to be her friend. She wasn’t one of the loudest girls, and she didn’t brag about how trendy she was – she was just dry and wickedly funny, supplying punchlines and sometimes reducing me to breathless fits of giggles with a raised eyebrow. She had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Friends, a programme that my parents wouldn’t let me watch. She’d actually been to New York with her Mum. She was cool and clever and grown up, and had a perspective on life that seemed different from anyone else’s. Other people were happy to accept what they were told, but she challenged them. She seemed to know that there was life outside sleepy Dorset, and I wanted her to tell me all about it.

Kirsty was immediately commandeered by Charlotte* a girl I knew from primary school, a friend who was good at blowing hot and cold with me, and was confident in her coolness. I became Kirsty’s stand-in BFF – I was the pal version of a supply teacher, and I used to look forward to flu season because I’d get a full week of Kirsty’s undivided attention.

Then, one summer, Kirsty and I started hanging out together all the time. I felt as though I’d won a competition. She’d bitch about Charlotte and I’d join in, thrilled. I’m not proud of how good it made me feel to be ‘promoted’, but when we returned to school in the Autumn, it was just the two of us. Charlotte was out in the cold.

I lasted a term. For a few months, we told each other everything and spent every spare second together, and after Christmas Kirsty started blanking me. “Nothing is wrong! Why are you being weird?” she’d mutter, as I tearfully tailed her down school corridors demanding to know what had happened and what I’d done. It was as if I’d been dumped. I suppose I had.

For months and years afterwards, I thought of Kirsty as the person who had hurt me the hardest, the girl who wronged me, and the person who had seen something so awful and unfixable inside me that she couldn’t bear to be seen with me any more. It’s only now I realise that what happened probably had nothing to do with me at all.

Before the break up, Kirsty had told me about her parents’ divorce, and how she felt that her family was alternately suffocating and abandoning her. She’d gained weight quickly and then lost it even more quickly, and she was suffering from a severe eating disorder. Like me, she was dealing with the difficulties of just being in her teens, surviving school and dealing with the enormous amount of academic pressure that was facing her.

At the time, I think it made sense for me to experience sadness, anger and confusion. I wish I’d known that then, it was just too hard for her to be a good friend to anyone. She needed to draw people close and reject them, because it was a way for her to show she was in control. I don’t think she did it on purpose, and I’m sure she didn’t mean to actively cause me pain.

Hurt people hurt people, and our teenage years are a traumatic time. In some ways we’re at our angriest – we lash out, yet we’re incredibly vulnerable to the sadness and fury of others. Years later, I can finally see that we reject each other for all kinds of reasons, and most of them don’t have anything to do with the person being rejected.

I wish I hadn’t made Kirsty’s pain all about me. But I’ve finally realised that what happened wasn’t my fault, and I think that makes me a better friend now.

@NotRollergirl

Image: Hailey Hamilton

I always felt like a bit of a chameleon when I was growing up.

I had lots of different groups of friends and I felt really happy moving between them. I could be arty and into speaking about paints and new projects with one group. I could talk about music and boys and shopping and clothes with another. I could talk about dyeing my hair and getting a nose piercing and listening to lots of loud music with some others. And my friends who loved poetry and losing themselves in the library made me feel calm when the whirlwind of first crushes, so much homework and a changing body made me feel quite scared.

But when we hit 14 things began to change. It didn’t seem so easy to move from one group to another. I was listening to rock music and wanted to wear baggy clothes, but one group called me names. I decided I really wanted to fit in, so I dressed more like them. I listened to the music they listened to. And I spent a lot of time talking about boys, parties and clothes. I wasn’t part of lots of groups anymore. I was part of one.

At first, it felt good to be part of one group. We were all very close, they invited me everywhere and we did everything together. I didn’t speak to my other friends much anymore.

But soon I realised that I didn’t really fit into this group as much as I thought I did. I was hiding the music I listened to at home. I was getting all my homework done when they weren’t. I still wanted to audition for the school play and they wanted to go sit in the park on a night instead.

One day they told me I couldn’t come to lunch with them anymore. “…Why?” I asked, assuming it was some kind of joke. “Because if you love homework so much, you have all of ours to do as well,” one of them answered.

So, I did. I sat all lunch time doing six different sets of history homework. I didn’t have my other groups of friends. I didn’t have this group anymore. And I’d never felt so alone.

That weekend they invited me to a house party. I’d never been to a house party before. I felt scared, but also excited. And happy that they’d invited me to something. Maybe I wouldn’t have to do their homework for them again?

I arrived at the party and met my friends outside. They didn’t seem to want me there, but I followed them in anyway. We sat in the front room of the house, loads of boys that were much older than us sat around us. I felt really uncomfortable. Suddenly my friends got up and ran out. “You stay here,” they said. I waited a few minutes and then decided I just had to get out of there. I tried to move and knocked a lamp over. Everyone in the room laughed.

I ran outside to see my friends talking to a bunch of older boys. They were all smoking. “Oh here she is, Little Miss Geek,” one of them said. “Little Miss Goody Two Shoes Goth!” said the other. I looked at them both and turned away to walk back home. I felt sad. I felt lonely.

But I also felt free.

The next day, I went to audition for the latest school play. I thought I might have missed the last chance, but my favourite drama teacher let me give it a go. A lot of my old friends were there and I felt shy around them. Luckily, they invited me over when they could see I was on my own. We all auditioned and I felt happy to stand on stage. To speak loudly. To do something I loved and to see people who didn’t need me to be someone I wasn’t.

Over the next few weeks I spent a lot of time with the drama group. We all got brilliant parts in the play. We all bonded over old, sticky stage makeup and big, billowing costumes and dancing about behind-the-scenes before rehearsals. I didn’t feel scared about being part of a group this time, because I knew this group appreciated a big bit of me.

And I never had to do anyone else’s homework ever again.

@BeccaCaddy

Image: Hailey Hamilton