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

Feeling blue? It might help to wear your heart on your sleeve. Or your top. Or your hat.

As well as being the speediest, trendiest way to perk up your jacket/scarf/jumper/bag, there are loads of cute pin badges out there right now that seem to speak right to our soul. From weepy elephants and sad ghosts for the days you just want to wallow, to fiesty fighting talk for when you need boosting back up again, we’ve found 10 of our very favourites…

 

The importance of wearing Ernest

Sad elephant pin badge

Ernest the elephant packed his trunk, and ran away to the bathroom for a good ol’ cry.

Ernest the sad elephant pin, £6, Etsy/KatieAbeyDesign

 

Dancing on your own

Sad songs lapel pin

Because we all love a weepy ballad on a Sunday night, right?

Sad songs pin, $6, Stay Home Club

 

Wednesday we’re in love

Wednesday Addams pin

Let your goth flag fly with Wednesday, every day of the week.

Wednesday Addams pin, £6, Punky Pins

 

What Would Cher Do?

Ugh as if

Sometimes it’s better to Cher than it is to care.

Clueless As If brooch, £4, Oh Gosh Cindy

 

Top banana!

dead banana pin

Be gentle – some of us bruise easily.

Dead banana pin, £6, Etsy/doodlesbyben

 

A cute Akita

Look at his little face! Now tell me you don’t feel a little bit better.

Akita brooch, £9, Fy

Boo hoo

Sad ghost pin

Wear this to all your usual haunts.

Sad ghost enamel pin, £6, The Sad Ghost Club

Pin, punch

Boom pin

Ready to shake it off and rise back up? There’s a pin for that.

Boom pin, £10, Fy

Uh, uh, uh, uh, stayin’

alive pin

Yeah you are!

Alive pin, £7, Fy

 

Simply riveting

Rosie the Riveter pin

Our favourite 1940s feminist icon gets a purrfect makeover.

Feminist cat pin, £6, Punky Pins

Depression is not a bad mood.

Let’s just get that out of the way, right at the beginning. It’s not a matter of feeling sad for a few days. It’s not something that you can ‘snap out of’. And it is absolutely NOT a sign of weakness.

Depression is a very real illness, with very real symptoms.

But with the right treatment and support, it doesn’t have to take over your life either. Some people with depression will make a complete recovery, others might find themselves managing their symptoms on and off their whole lives. But either way, it is always possible to feel happy again. Pinky promise.

What does depression look like?

Part of what makes depression so difficult to understand is that often, there isn’t anything to see. It’s not like a broken arm or a bleeding toe, something you can point at and say “here! This is where it hurts!”

But when you think about it, there are heaps of things we can’t see. Love. Gravity. Farts. Pokemon. We still believe they exist.

However, depression can come with physical symptoms too. Some people find that they constantly feel tired, others have trouble sleeping or sprout various pains and aches. Some people lose their appetite while other people find that their appetite has quadrupled overnight.

Emotionally, people with depression may find that they have lasting feelings of sadness or hopelessness and that they don’t find happiness in things they normally enjoy. Such as hanging out with friends and family. Puppies. Chocolate milkshakes. It’s also common for people experiencing depression to have symptoms of anxiety. But that doesn’t mean that if you have depression you’ll also have anxiety, or vice versa.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Depression is a mental illness but it can have physical symptoms too, such as fatigue, pains and aches and a loss of appetite.
  • There are loads of reasons that people develop depression; sometimes there is a trigger and other times there seems to be no reason at all.
  • Depression is treatable. Treatment often involves talking therapies, and medication such as antidepressants.
  • It’s totally normal and ok to be sad sometimes. But if you’re worried your sadness might be something more serious, talk to your GP or an adult you trust. You don’t have to go through this alone.

It’s perfectly natural to experience feelings of sadness or anxiety at certain points in your life – especially during puberty, when often it can feel like your brain and body are running in two different races at the same time. This is part of being a human, and usually nothing to worry about in the long term.

Even though they might look similar from far away and are often mistaken for each other, when you get close up, you realise that depression and sadness are completely different things.

What causes depression?  

There are loads of reasons that people develop depression – and sometimes, no obvious reason at all.

Sometimes there is a trigger, such as parents splitting up, being bullied, or losing someone close to you. Some people might just be more prone to depression than others. Every family gene pool is a lucky dip of quirks and conditions that might be passed down – from heart disease and diabetes to pointy noses, and sometimes, yep, depression or other mental health issues.

But having a history of depression in your family doesn’t mean that you will get it, just as no history of depression isn’t a guarantee that you won’t. That’s the thing about a lucky dip: no one quite knows what they’re going to get.

Is it treatable?

Yes, a million times yes. Treatment for depression often involves talking therapies, such as seeing a psychologist or a counsellor to chat about your feelings. Talking therapies can be great as they can teach you tactics to help you cope in certain situations and strategies to avoid triggers.

There are also medications such as antidepressants, which can help people cope with their symptoms and balance out their mood. It’s common for people to try a combination of talking therapies and medication, depending on their GP’s advice.

When should I go to the doctor?

It’s always best to be on the safe side, so if you feel like you have any of the symptoms we’ve been talking about, it might be a good idea to head to your GP for a chat. You can also find lots of helpful info on Childline.

Remember, it’s totally normal and ok and fine to be sad – that’s what we have Weepy Girls’ Corner for. But if you’re worried that your sadness could be depression, talk to someone. It could be a teacher, a parent, a doctor, an older sibling, a synchronised swimming instructor… basically, an adult you trust.

Because however difficult things seem, you never have to suffer in silence.

Image: Getty

We all know that bae has nothing on your BFF. I mean, the second ‘F’ literally stands for forever.

But sometimes, ‘forever’ doesn’t actually end up actually meaning forever. It might mean, ‘for high school’. It might mean, ‘for the summer’. It might mean, ‘until my crush realises they love me back and we spend the rest of our lives holding hands and gazing at each other while taking long walks along beaches’ (cheers for that one, Bryony).

When it comes to heartbreak, relationship breakups tend to get all the glory. There are gazillions of love songs and squazillions of books (what? Those could be real numbers) that deal with romantic heartbreak. But sometimes friendship breakups are the real arrows to your heart.

With romantic splits, people expect you to wallow. Everyone gives you a free pass if you are unable to get through a two minute conversation without weeping. You’re allowed to hole up in your room and refuse to eat anything of nutritional value, while concerned friends and family stroke your hair and tiptoe round bringing you cups of tea and letting you have the best biscuits.

But, when you break up with your BFF, everyone expects you to carry on as normal. To change that profile picture of the two of you, smiling with your arms wrapped around each other, without fuss. To ignore the eery silence of your phone, which no longer lights up every two minutes with a message from her. People expect you to be angry, not sad. To bitch and rage and plot revenge, not dissolve in a pile of tissues every time you smell her favourite body spray.

Well, screw that. I say you’re allowed to grieve for friendship breakups.

Hell you’re more than allowed – I fully encourage it.

Eat ice cream straight out of the tub. Put on your comfiest, grossest pyjamas. Watch The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants twice. Or three (ok, eight) episodes of Friends. Don’t wash your hair. Make a weepy Spotify playlist filled with heart-wobbling songs by Adele and Drake.  Let yourself be sad.

new girl

There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting yourself be sad. I weep at the John Lewis Christmas advert for two months solid, so it makes sense that I weep for the end of my actual, real-life friendships.

But then – then, you need to put your tissues away, paint your nails turquoise blue and get back on the horse. Focus on what the friendship taught you. Maybe this BFF taught you the importance of honesty, or that sometimes you should be kinder than is strictly necessary. Maybe she taught you how to do the macarena backwards.

Whatever it is, looking for those silver linings will help you form stronger friendships in the future.

Of course, you might get back together one day, and your friendship might be stronger because of your time apart. But if you don’t, there are seven billion (this one is an actual number, I promise) other potential friends waiting out there who would be lucky to have you.