General Question

girlofscience's avatar

How do you deal with a situation from both sides?

Asked by girlofscience (7475 points ) January 9th, 2009

As this is a quite vague question, I’ll give some background regarding how it immediately pertains to me.

Yguy is my immediate coworker; he sits next to me. That is to say, we spend 40 hours per week working side by side. We are involved in a number of projects together, but our conversation topics extend well beyond work. We take hour+ breaks from actual work to discuss our personal lives with each other, have lunches together, and go out for drinks together after work. We have shared a great deal with each other, and he has been instrumental in helping me through emotionally trying situations in my life. We are not romantically involved. We are both in committed relationships, and he and his girlfriend frequently socialize with me and my boyfriend. Our two relationship pairs get along quite well. Basically, I am very close friends with Yguy.

Xgirl is my “coworker,” although not immediately. According to meeting schedules, we only run into each other approximately once per month at work. However, she is in my immediate social group (that is, the group of social twenty-somethings that spans departments and has similar senses of humor). She is a girl quite like me, I enjoy her company a lot, and I can see myself being good friends with her. We socialize regularly (though certainly independent of Yguy!), and we have a lot in common. We have in-depth conversations, and we frequently plan outings together, but I usually feel awkward about going through with the outings as a result of my friendship with Yguy…

Xgirl and Yguy had a thing awhile back, and it didn’t work out so well, to say the least. In fact, it resulted in so much tension that I notice Yguy hiding behind me and ducking out of the room during those monthly meetings in which Xgirl is present (she’s also doing the same!). From everything I can tell, it simply seems to have been a failed relationship gone miserably, terribly awkward.

They both hate each other, and I don’t want to take sides. Yguy has mentioned it to me on several occasions, and he’s given me brief details, but it has never been the pressing matter of discussion. He has always said, “It’s quite a story, so one day, we’re going to have to devote a few hours to me telling you the story of what happened with Xgirl.” I always left it at that. However, if I were to ask at any point (or even call him up at 2am on a Wednesday night and ask for the story), I am positive he would divulge willingly and completely.

Most of my immediate social group, however, is related to Xgirl. Tonight, my boyfriend and I started out attending a social event at Yguy’s house (btw, I am also friends with Yguy’s girlfriend), and we later ended up at a bar with my general social group, including Xgirl. Xgirl was slightly drunk and in the bathroom when I went to pee. After having peed and at the sink, she started talking to me about Yguy. The conversation ended up being so long that everyone in our social group was concerned/confused that the two of us were in the bathroom for more than an hour. Now that she has divulged the entire story to me from her side, I feel for her, but I also feel loyal to my good friend, Yguy.

When Yguy tells me the story of Xgirl (which I expect to happen within the next month), how do I respond? Do I act as if I haven’t heard her side?
How do I stay friends with both? Can I, or will that diminish my friendship with one or the other?
Is it despicable of me to listen to both of their sides of the story and pretend I don’t know the other? When they ask me if the other has mentioned anything, am I supposed to say “no”?
How do I handle this situation?

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33 Answers

augustlan's avatar

My best friend is also friends with my ex-husband. (My ex and I are on friendly terms, so it may not apply). She gets put on the spot occasionally (if one of us doesn’t want the other to know something, but she knows), but we (the ex and I) try hard not to do so. If you handle it as a mature adult, and they can handle it as mature adults, I see no reason you can’t be friends with both. (Unless one or the other has done something you find morally reprehensible.) I also see no reason to lie to either about having heard the other side. I would not tell them what you heard from the other side though. Then you’ll get in the middle of a ‘he said/she said’ thing. As we all get older, this type of thing is bound to happen more and more. Good luck.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Be honest. That’s it. Ask for his side because you happened to hear her tell her side in a bathroom one night. If either of them freak out on you, the friendships aren’t worth it. You’re friends with both of them, which is something both of them should be okay with, even if they continue hating each other. Unless, like august said, one of them did something morally reprehensible – because then the hatred would make sense.

girlofscience's avatar

@augustlan: Fantastic answer. But now, practically, tell me what to do, haha. Let’s say I am having lunch with Yguy next week and we get into the discussion of Xgirl. It is mentioned that Xgirl and I had a discussion about the matter Friday night. How, conversationally, does it go, that I had a discussion with Xgirl about the matter, but I am choosing not to divulge what she has said about it?

Judi's avatar

Don’t ya just love drama?

augustlan's avatar

Tell him you had the conversation w/ Xgirl, but that you’d like to hear it from his perspective. Tell him you don’t feel comfortable repeating anything she said, but would like to see it from both sides. Hopefully, he’ll respect that.

jonsblond's avatar

It’s not despicable for you to listen to both sides at all. If they ask you for details, just say that it’s not your place to answer that question. Tell them that you care about both of them and that you are willing to listen, but it’s not your place to say what the other is thinking.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I have to second jonsblond’s advice. Resist getting sucked into drama vortex. Usually what happens in these things is they would both end up mad at you, and speaking to each other again.

RandomMrdan's avatar

I don’t think you’d be despicable at all. I’ve done things similar with my group of friends in order to help resolve misunderstanding between the two sides. After he explains his side, let him know I can see it both ways, and can understand why both feel the way they do. There is no harm in hearing both sides of the story otherwise you are only hearing one biased side of a story.

I don’t know all the details, but usually, you knowing both sides of the story may have the ability to sift through any exaggerated details, and maybe find some common ground so they don’t have to act the way they do in each others company.

Normally I will show sympathy and be agreeable to each side, but offer solutions to make things better for both sides.

It’s hard not to get involved, or at least hear them out on what the whole thing is. As a friend you can at least give them your ears to let them get it off their chest.

I don’t think either side can get angry with you as long as you try to remain neutral and just share an agreeable opinion to some degree (I understand you can’t agree 100% with both, but just understand points being made).

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I agree with RandomMan about listening both sides out. Then tell them you like them both very much, and that you’re really sorry that they can’t find a way to put their differences behind them, and that you would rather not discuss this with them as it’s in the past. then stick your fingers in your ears and say “lalalalala not listening” when they try to make you take sides.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@AlfredaPrufrock – That’s what I was going to write. Or something very similar.

@girlofscience – Sure, hear them out, as advised above, but in the end, their weirdness towards each other is their weirdness. The most you would probably ever say is, “OK, you two need to settle this,” and that only in the event when their weirdness doesn’t stop at your nose, so to speak. Otherwise, it needn’t bother you one bit.

sndfreQ's avatar

…move to a bigger town

but seriously, you had me at “peed at the sink.”

My advice: when they’re both sober, clearly communicate to them (one at a time) that you’re “Switzerland” when it comes to dealing with them and their shared past, and that you will not be a go-between for either of them and their dealing with each other.

Then monitor the situation and proceed with caution; especially given that these are colleagues you work with and socialize with…in extreme cases, speak with an HR rep at your work.

C to the Y to the A…

wildflower's avatar

Bottom line; it was their situation and their heartache. This is where you draw the line between sympathy and empathy.
Unless you personally feel strongly that one side was right and the other wrong – why choose? You don’t have to because it’s not your situation.
All things being equal, I’d say be a good friend, let them pour out their hearts to you if it makes them feel better, but remember that it’s not your situation or your pain and it’s not up to you to respond or react to it. Be understanding, empathic and leave it at that – go back to focusing on your relationship with these two, rather than their relationship with each other.

bythebay's avatar

@girlofscience: I have been in a very familiar boat; it’s rough. But I treated it like a blended family, with obstacles that were not mine to overcome. I heard them both out, and truth be told they were not bashing each other but, of course, have differing versions of the same story. I decided it was not my job to lay blame, because it all happened ‘pre-me’. I told them both that I adored them and that I wanted to have both of their friendships in my life and I left it at that. I socialized with both; invited them both with their SO’s to any event I had. Eventually, it faded away and they are very cordial now to each other. The fear factor seemed to fade once they had both moved on to more successful relationships. They were both in my wedding!

galileogirl's avatar

Of course the best thing to do is develop selective deafness and amnesia. Never initiate a conversation that will encourage one friend to bad mouth another. If they start it, remember something urgent you have to do elsewhere. What ever you do hear, put into the vault. You are bound to hear unpleasant things about both friends if you listen to ‘the story’. Why would you want to do that?

elijah's avatar

Just remember, there are always three sides to the story. His, hers, and the truth. They will both tell a different version of the story because it is natural for people to accentuate the ‘this horrible thing happened to me” parts and leave out the “I did a horrible thing” parts. Just tell them both that you don’t want to hear negative comments about the other. You can’t make them like each other, but you can expect them to act like adults.

Blondesjon's avatar

This really isn’t an enormous dilema, is it? I mean don’t we all deal with this same set of ‘variables’ every day? Even though it may not be the same scenario you propose, we withold and release information everyday to our various co-workers, family, friends, strangers, etc. With that said, this would have been an AWSOME question to pose to possible androids in Bladerunner.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

There has been some great advice, but I’m going to add my two cents. One of my very good friends is in the middle of a fight between my best friend and I. Her way of dealing with the situation at hand is that she will spend time with both parties, listen to both sides, and keeps mediation to a minimum. I make sure to let her know that when I’m telling her about my feelings regarding the fight, I am telling her as my friend and not as someone in the middle of things, and she makes sure to assert that if I forget that boundary. That is an important distinction, and something you need to make everyone involved know that that is your position.

wundayatta's avatar

Let me just say that you all are lucky to have problems like this.

May2689's avatar

DO not take any sides.. listen to Yguy´s story but at the end tell him that your friendship with him and your friendship with x girl are totally separate and different. Also, tell this to xgirl. They need to know that this is not a competition of who gets you as a friend. Be neutral and courteous!

pathfinder's avatar

Keep it as a secret loveing act.Or no if it is social group than be honest.All of you can solve it on the level.The social group can speek wery well.I mean explained what you mention.They would understand why it that happend.

girlofscience's avatar

@pathfinder

I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you mean at all.

RandomMrdan's avatar

pathfinder doesn’t speak wery well. Hard to make anything out of what he said.

jonsblond's avatar

bless his heart… pathfinder tried ;)

RandomMrdan's avatar

@jonsblond haha good stuff.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

@jonsblond: Have you ever noticed that you can say anything, no matter how terrible, as long as you follow it with “bless their heart”?

RandomMrdan's avatar

@TitsMcGhee I can agree with that…it completely changes the tone of the statement when you throw that into the mix.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

“Oh, that’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen… bless his heart!”

jonsblond's avatar

@TitsMcGhee- lol, so true! You picked the perfect example.

jackfright's avatar

i take it lightly. and make it clear that for all the love you feel towards them, you couldn’t care less about their feelings for one another. when you take a hard stand, they’re less inclined to try to pull you into their corner. if that doesn’t help, threaten to just put both in cold storage for a bit.

also, REFUSE to listen to their stories. that way, you’re not obliged to be sympathetic to either.

DrMC's avatar

I think the issue is that you are risk to wind up listening again to either side of the story.

Does this betray the other friend?
Does this put you in a position of judging their actions?

yes and yes. This is difficult, and there is not a win win possible.

Refusing to listen is negative
Taking a side is negative to yourself and one of them
Listening to both and not speaking for the other will generate disonance. Life is heard and it could be worse. Is this dishonest?

My evil ploy. Deflect amicably after listening. – acknowlege reciept of info, and say nothing that would reveal a side is taken, a judgement made, but do show compassion, and regret for the turn of events, and how much you enjoy both of their company. Everything said should not offend the absent party. Ah the art of diplomacy.

Once you master this, apply for work at the State department and learn a foreign language.

DrMC's avatar

Your ultimate move is then to barter your position between the two, with a military alliance, loan, or treaty.

plethora's avatar

You are being used by both of them. Easy to get used in this situation. Only way I know to handle and be friends with both (assuming that’s possible) is to tell either when they mention the subject, before they can even get the words out of their mouth, that you love her/him, but you are just not going there. Can’t do it because of the close work situation, it’s unfair to the boss. Put the blame on her or him. If these two were my employees and I knew what was going on, I’d fire them both.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Presumably you are all adults and are being paid for work, not for social discussions. Just say “Uh huh” and leave it at that.
This is a prime example of why it is a bad idea to “fish off the company dock”.

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