Too often we confuse support with agreement. You and I can support decisions that we don’t wholeheartedly agree with. It requires a greater purpose. It requires a commitment to a team, or an overarching objective, that supersedes the decision itself.
Can you respect your friend’s opinion without agreeing with it? Are you faced with a friend who is asking you to affirm that their life choices are right?
In life, because of perspective and prerogative, there is no “right” or “wrong” decision, only different. I’m talking about situations like disagreeing with their choice in partner, taking on a risky investment, starting up a new business, leaving a job, or quitting school.
It’s one thing to be an enabler, blindly agreeing with every single thing a friend or family member does, and it’s another to turn you back on someone for not doing as you told them to. It’s important to remember that everyone is entitled to follow their own mind, regardless of the sound advice they’ve been given. On the other hand, remember that not everyone will agree with your life choices and, hopefully from a place of love, may express their disagreement.
I’ve had to learn how to respect, and root for people in my life when I was unsure or totally disagreed with their choices and actions. Here are some tips on how you can achieve this and still preserve your relationship:
- Voice your concerns, but don’t overdo it.
Constantly voicing your differing opinion or disdain about how “bad” of a decision they’re making is not helpful or supportive, but neither is totally removing yourself from the situation and never talking to them about it. It hinders communication and your friendship. When you talk to them, be sure to use “I” statements to only express how YOU feel. Using “you” statements can come across as like you’re making personal attacks and make them feel defensive. To reach common ground, let your friend know that while you don’t agree with the decision, you will still support them in whatever path they choose to take.
2. Stand up and still have their back!
You may feel like your friend needs to hear it from as many other people as possible for them to see your way of thinking. But if you expressed your concern out of love and concern, you wouldn’t want any and everyone to call your friend out and put them on blast. Do you really have their back? Just because you don’t agree with their decision doesn’t mean you have no love for them and should sit around and let other people bring them down and tell them about how “bad” their decision is. While you may be trying to stay out of the drama, by remaining passive about it to outsiders, you may make your friend question your support and loyalty. If you don’t think its your place to step up in the moment, be sure to be there afterwards to build your friend up and support them then.
3. Be open to letting them vent to you.
If you’re skeptical and unsure about your friend’s decisions, more than likely there are others in their circle who feel the same way as you. Your friend may be facing tension and ridicule from other friends and family members, with nowhere supportive or safe to turn to when times feel hard. This is not the time to hit them with “Well, a thousand Frenchmen can’t be wrong” or use the support for your opposing position to bully them into listening to you. Remember, it’s their decision to make and they deserve your respect and support to freely make those decisions.
4. Focus on the bigger picture.
Try to see your friend’s situation from their eyes. Really try to understand the reasoning behind their actions. Is this issue really as drastic and as “bad” as you think? If it’s a partner you don’t like, focus on whether or not this person makes them happy, if they’re in a harmful or abusive position, or if they’re being influenced to do out-of-character things. If your friend is leaving a job that you think is a steady, well paying, and safe, consider that their colleagues might be making life working there miserable, the boss is verbally and emotionally abusive towards them, or the kind of work they’re doing is just not fulfilling. You only want the best for your friend, and sometimes, making a decision that you may not fully understand what they’re going through or dealing with that’s making them feel the need to take this action is the best and only option for them. You just want your friend to feel loved and be happy in their relationship, you want their job to bring them joy on a daily basis and not grief and stress. So after you voice your concern, focus on your friend’s well being and look at the broader impact of their actions or decisions on their life.
5. Be there for them if it falls apart.
No one likes to hear “I told you so” while they’re going through it. As “right” as you might have been, after the decision doesn’t go as planned your friend will need emotional support in picking themselves back up. This is easier if you weren’t removed and passive during their efforts. Help them find ways to start again, how to see the silver lining, guide them to a happier place and let them know it’s not the end of the world. Being “right” does not make you a genius or an expert, it makes you sound like a bullying know-it-all who expects people to ask how high when you say jump. No one HAS to take your advice, because advice is only your opinion and people are free to take it, use it, or leave it.
Have you ever been in this kind of position? Did you feel like your friends didn’t support you or have you disagreed with a friend and didn’t know how to still show support? How did you handle it? If you have any other tips you can add let me know!