One thing I really have a problem with is if a friend that I’m really close to is privately venting to me about someone or a situation and going on and on about it and I want to support them – but even from what they’re saying I think they might be in the wrong or at least not looking at it from the right angle. Disagreeing with people is hard, especially when it might not be your place to say anything? I’m not 100% sure what I’m asking about here.
This can be hard. I think sometimes it can help to ask explicitly if it’s ok to comment.
- “I think you might not be seeing this from the right angle. Could I tell you how I’m seeing it?”
- “Would you like advice?”
- “Do you want advice, or just sympathy?”
It’s ok not to agree with your friends. It’s also ok to sympathize with someone even if you think they’re probably making mistakes that are contributing to the situation. And it’s also ok not to actively agree with them, even if you’re being sympathetic.
Like, there’s a difference between weighing in and saying why they’re right and the other person’s wrong, and saying things like:
- “That sounds really hard.”
- “Are you holding up ok?”
- “I hope things get better.”
Sympathy doesn’t necessarily mean agreement.
Of course, it’s also possible for friends to be so far over the line that it’s wrong to offer sympathy in that situation. I think in that situation, you do have to say something, but it doesn’t always have to be extreme or invasive. Sometimes it can just be like:
- “This conversation is making me really uncomfortable; can we change the subject?”
- “I don’t want to talk about this.”
- “I’m really not comfortable discussing that with you.”
Sometimes it might mean directly confronting them (eg: If they’re behaving in a really creepy way towards someone else and want to tell you all about it), but I get the sense that this isn’t the kind of situation you’re talking about.