Conflict is a normal part of life, but it can complicate your relationship when two of your friends are fighting, especially if they try to get you to take sides. If you aren’t involved in the argument, you can have a more objective look at the issues and help your friends resolve the conflict through mediation before things get so far out of hand that friendships are destroyed.
Air the Problem
Get your friends together, face to face, so the argument can be resolved. Express your appreciation for both of them and your concern about their bickering. Allow first one and then the other to fully present each side of the argument, asking your friends not to interrupt one another and to fully listen to what is being said, advises therapist and attorney Bill Eddy in “High Conflict Mediation: Four Tips for Mediators" on HighConflictInstitute.com. Stress the need for understanding each other, demonstrating respect and identifying the feelings being expressed.
Clarify the Situation
Put all of the issues out on the table by asking open-ended questions, suggests mediator Lee Jay Berman in “13 Tools for Resolving Conflict in the Workplace, with Customers and in Life” on Mediate.com. Ask how the argument started and why it’s important to each friend. Remind them to remain calm and seek commonalities that lead to a win-win solution. Ask them to avoid blame. Listen carefully to the answers, trying to discover each friend’s perspective while remaining neutral.
You can’t moderate if you get involved in the argument. Remember, this is not about you, it's about your friends, Eddy writes. Remain calm and realize that you don’t have to solve their problem -- they do. Your role is to be an objective third party who does not need to control the situation. Don’t criticize or get angry with them if neither will budge.
Identify the Threat
Conflict arises and remains because each side perceives a threat, according to therapists Jeanne Segal and Melinda Smith in “Conflict Resolution Skills” on Helpguide.org. Ask your friends to identify the threat behind the argument, such as a fear or hurt that fuels the anger. You might be able to help with that by asking each friend what emotions he feels, what needs are not being met, what would solve the argument or asking each friend to summarize what the other has said without adding commentary or judgment. Use humor when possible to diffuse the anger, stress and need to win.
Finding a Solution
Ask your friends to identify what is needed to resolve the problem, suggests psychotherapist Joyce Marter in “10 More Tips for Effective Conflict Resolution" for "The Huffington Post." Suggest that they let go of anything they feel is less important than their friendship. Encourage them to consider if each would rather be right than friends and what would be lost in apologizing for hurt feelings. Help them reconnect and celebrate their friendship if they are willing to work it out.