DEAR HARRIETTE: Two of my best friends got into a petty fight last year while they were playing tennis. One of them got hurt, and the other tried to tell her to sit out of the game so she could feel better. She apologized after she realized what she said, but the other still hasn't forgiven her. This became a big problem for our friend group. After the fight began, they both lost a lot of friends when people started taking sides. The fight continued throughout the whole year, despite every effort to try to get them to be civil with each other. We realize that they cannot be friends again, but is there a way that we can get them to talk with each other? -- No Longer Friends, Detroit
DEAR NO LONGER FRIENDS: One day your friends may wake up and realize that their fight was virtually meaningless. Naturally, when in the heat of the moment, especially a competitive one like the middle of a tennis game, tempers flare up quickly. The reason they have stayed flared is because they exposed their conflict to a larger group. Oddly, what we do when we are upset is to create our own little battlegrounds, just like those that are created in the Middle East and elsewhere that conflicts run high. We get people to side with us, and then friction builds and builds until an explosive situation often replaces pure tension.
Until everyone is thinking with a cooler head, it is unlikely that these people will see the folly of their ways. But for anyone who does see how hurtful the aftermath of this unfortunate incident has been on your friend group, you can speak up. You can say you are sorry that the argument got out of hand and festered the way it did and that you, for one, want your friends back. You can ask others if they would like to bury the proverbial hatchet and rekindle your bond. As soon as you get one to say yes, work on that relationship as you look to add others, including the initial instigators.