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Stuck in the middle

Q:  I have two friends who are dating each other, and often when we’re socializing, they get into an argument. They insist on dragging me into it by asking my opinion about who’s right and who’s wrong. I hate being put in this position. What can I do?

A:  You can use the simple technique called a feeling message. Before explaining the details, let me first make some guesses about your feelings:

  • You like both of your friends and don’t want to appear to be taking sides.
  • You feel awkward about being placed in the role of judge.
  • Their argument is putting you on edge.
  • You’re worred about being able to express all of this without hurting their feelings or seeming to discount their issue.

Assuming my guesses are correct, here is how you can communicate your feelings to them: “Bill and Karen, I know how important this subject is to you, but when you put me in the middle by asking me to choose sides, I feel very uncomfortable. Please understand that I really don’t want you to ask me for an opinion when you’re having a disagreement.”

Notice that the feeling message contains two things: a description of their behavior and its effect on you. The key is to deliver both pieces of information without being judgmental.

If your friends repeat the behavior in the future, use the same statement but modify it slightly: “Bill and Karen, this has come up before, and I need to say it to you again. I know how important this subject is to you, but when you put me in the middle by asking me to choose sides, I feel very uncomfortable. Please understand that I really don’t want you to ask me for an opinion when you’re having a disagreement.”

By adding that their behavior is making you repeat yourself, you are emphasizing your position.

This highly effective technique takes practice, but with time and patience, you can become a master at it.

Do you have a question or comment for me? Feel free to post it by clicking on the comments link below.

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