Another week, another piece of crap from Dr. Laura! This week: How to lose friends and alienate people.
The question: I need help determining whether my friendship with another married couple should continue or come to an end. My husband and I enjoy spending time with this particular couple, movies, dinner, game nights, until they inevitably begin bickering and cutting one another down in front of us. Should we say something in particular to our friends regarding their behavior when it happens, or should we simply not spend any more time with them in the future?
Dr. Laura’s answer: I think their friendship with you is worth giving some effort to, so here’s what you do. You’re having a good time and suddenly one of them starts snapping at the other and you go, “Woah! Woah. I know you love her, or him. You know, you need to temper that one down a little bit sweetie.” Just a friendly ““ and if they lash out at you, that’s the time you go, “okay guys, we’re out of here.” They have to know that there are consequences to their actions at the very time it happens, they may not even be aware. It’s very interesting, when I was in private practice sometimes I used to videotape some of the sessions, and then show it to the couple afterwards. And they didn’t even realize how they were looking at each other and what they were saying and how it was coming out, until they got to see it. So getting feedback from you guys may be the very thing to help them.
Dr. Susan’s answer: Listen, I’m all for communication, and if they are making you uncomfortable, there is a third option that isn’t “be an asshole” or “run away.” Dr. Laura is right in that your friendship sounds like it is worth putting in effort. She is also right that people often don’t even realize what they are saying and doing. But she is absolutely wrong about how to go about doing it. Seriously? Stepping into an argument mid-cut and saying “HEY HEY HEY IT’S ALL ABOUT MEEEEEEE!”? Maybe Dr. Laura hasn’t ever been in a snippy argument before, but I have lots of experience here, and there is nothing that will elevate snippiness into anger faster than somebody loudly interjecting that they are also being put out.
(Tone doesn’t come across well in a transcript, but let me just say that the way she suggests that the caller respond is obnoxious.)
Option #3: wait until a neutral time, and tell your friend (whichever one you are closer to) that their interactions are making you uncomfortable. This gives your friend a chance to think about this privately, while not on the spot, and perhaps to even talk to their spouse about their communication strategies. While not on the spot. If you are writing to an advice columnist about whether to cut off a friendship, your relationship isn’t solid enough to handle a big, four-person blow-up. And really, if the tables were turned, how would you want to be approached? If a casual friend did this to me, I would stop the argument then and there, feel my face burning until they left, cry in the bathroom, send a message later saying how sorry I was, and never invite the person over again.
There are ways to approach a subject without being a jerk. If you value your friendship, approach the situation in the same way as you would want to be approached.