Devil’s Advocate

William Ling-Regan and Eleanor Brown


Dear Divided Devil,


Group dynamics are always tough. Conflict can make them even tougher, especially when you’re caught between two sides. In a situation like yours, it’s important to remember that this isn’t your battle. Regardless of how you feel about their issues or who you think is right, it’s better to stay out of it and avoid risking your own friendships. Also, keep in mind that more often than not, there’s a real reason for the conflict, and that your friends have a right to be upset. You never know the full story, so instead of telling them to “suck it up” for the sake of the friend group, encourage them to resolve it. This isn’t easy though, and we know it’s hard to constantly be walking on eggshells around your friends. But you’re in luck. We have a two-step process to help you better the group dynamic without overstepping your bounds: 

First, try to avoid the conflict. As contradictory as it sounds, there’s a way for you to spend time with your two friends at once without them having to interact. For example, if you’re eating lunch in Commons or getting dinner with a group, have them sit at opposite ends of the table, where they won’t even know the other one is there, or start separate conversations with each of them in different rooms if you’re at someone’s house. If they refuse to see each other, or if their fighting makes it impossible to be together, consider hanging out with each of them separately. You won’t be picking one over the other, but instead spending time with both of them while not getting sucked into their drama.

If it’s impossible to step around the conflict, confront it. Try and encourage a conversation between them without being a part of it by helping them start talking and then leaving them to it. Even if confrontation amplifies the conflict in the short term, it will help in the long term by either settling it from the root, or putting an end to a friendship that’s going nowhere. Your friends should think about if their friendship is something they feel is worth working through, or if they’re ready to let go of the friendship altogether. You have to be ready to face the fact that your group dynamic may change, and it will be okay to be friends with these people separately. 

Overall, just keep in mind that most conflict is temporary, and, if you strike a balance between staying out of it and encouraging your friends to talk, it’ll get resolved one way or another. The most important thing is to make sure that your friendships with them aren’t harmed. Before you know it, you’ll take your friend group from hell to heaven!



The Devil’s Advocate


The Devil’s Advocate is the Polygon’s new advice column. Need advice? Write [email protected] a letter explaining your problem and we’ll publish it anonymously with advice from the Devil’s Advocate.