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Relationships

6 Ways To Get Your Friend Back After a Fallout

Losing a friend can be devastating.

Key points

  • Friendship problems do not need to turn into cutoffs.
  • Resolving problems is much more effective and rewarding than avoidance.
  • Six steps can facilitate relationship repair, including letting time pass and not making assumptions.

Dear Dr. G.,

I have been terribly upset about a situation with a person who I thought was a very good friend. Let's call her Laura. About 10 years ago, I moved to a new state and my very first friend was Laura. I liked her almost immediately. She was always fun and kind and consistently included me in group activities like lunches and a book group. Laura always made me feel included. She has always been very important to me and I thought that she would be a lifelong friend.

I want to tell you a little more about Laura. We each have a lot of other friends but we have had a certain type of closeness and trust that is not present in other friendships. We have a long history of confiding in each other and trusting each other. That is a big deal. Laura is also a very sensitive person and I have noticed that her feelings get hurt easily when her feelings or opinions are not respected. Since I know this about her, I always try to remember to follow up on topics that are important to her. I would also never miss her birthday or other important occasions. I think that I am not quite as sensitive as Laura but people are different so I try to respect what is important to her.

About a year ago, something awful happened. My sister died unexpectedly and I was devastated. It was a rough year for me. I didn't check in with many of my friends as much as usual and I believe that this really upset Laura. I guessed that this is why she stopped answering my messages but I was never quite sure. When I started feeling a bit better, I reached out to her and she said that she needed a break from me. She did not elaborate despite my questions. I was so upset. Not only did I miss my sister but now I was losing Laura. I just didn't know what to do so I left her alone and told myself that it was my year for losing people. At this point, though, I am missing Laura terribly but have no idea how to go about regaining her friendship. Please help.

—A Sad Friend

Dear Friend,

I am so sorry that you have had such a rough year. Losing your sister must be devastating. Losing your dear friend may be equally devastating. It is clear that you want to repair your relationship with Laura and kudos to you for trying to do so. For some, it is easier to be avoidant and let a friendship go. For others who are used to cutting others off, this might be considered just another cutoff. I will help you navigate repairing your relationship with Laura. I hope that she too would like to resume and repair the connection.

Please be patient with yourself and your friend as you try your best to follow the following six steps in an attempt to get your friend back. It will be hard but I hope it will be worth it.

1. My first recommendation is that you let time pass so that everyone has time to cool down. My experience is that anger tends to dissipate over time unless something egregious has occurred. Over time, people even tend to forget why they were originally angry. It seems to me that enough time has passed between you and Laura and that it is time to attempt the repair work.

2. Do not make any assumptions about why your friend is angry. We tend to assume and presume. Ask Laura why she is upset/angry/disappointed and listen hard. I hope that she is ready to talk openly. You may be very surprised by what she has to say.

3. Give yourself time to think about what your friend has to say. Consider your role in the relationship damage. Can you accept what your friend has to say? Can you learn from it? If so, then move on to the next step.

4. Let your friend know that you understand what she has to say but also let her know that avoiding you was hurtful. Good friends should try to be open with each other. Good connections take work.

5. Do not try to jump right back into the relationship. Recognize that just as it takes time to build relationships, it also takes time to mend relationships. Start with light conversation about neutral topics like movies, TV shows, etc. Move slowly.

6. Persist and hopefully prevail. The friendship you save may be well worth your time and effort.

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