How to resolve friendship tension like Lorde and Charli XCX

How to resolve friendship tension like Lorde and Charli XCX

Do these lyrics resonate with you? “I don’t know if you like me / Sometimes I think you might hate me / Sometimes I think I might hate you.”

They are from the opening verse of Girl, So Confusing – a song from Charli XCX’s album Brat (released on June 7) which reflects on insecurity, fame and the pressures of womanhood. A remix of the song – Girl, So Confusing Version With Lorde – was released two weeks later, confirming suggestions on social media that the original was about Charli’s friendship and long-rumoured rivalry with the Kiwi singer.

The remix adds a verse written by Lorde, in which she explores the ways her mental health struggles have affected her friendships. Elsewhere in the song, Charli is honest about the fear that her friend is secretly rooting for her to fail.

It seems that working on the song together has helped heal the pair’s relationship. Lorde’s verse ends “I ride for you Charli”, while Charli ends the track with “You know I ride for you, too”.

One feature of the song that has struck a chord with fans is the pervasive aura of uncertainty. Both the title and chorus refer to confusion. In the opening verse, Charli says she “doesn’t know” how to feel and is forced to make guesses about how to “maybe” interpret the situation. Later lyrics repeat the words “I don’t know”, and Charli says she “can’t tell” what’s going on. Both singers try their best to describe this “awkwardness” and guess why it occurs.

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The song resonates so widely because, despite focusing on celebrities, it touches on a universal experience: uncertainty about others’ feelings toward us.

Terms like “ghosting” and “phubbing” illustrate our social fears of rejection by friends. Typically, we don’t worry about friendships unless there’s an obvious problem. However, subtle cues such as inconsistent behaviour can trigger anxiety, making us feel responsible for perceived awkwardness.

For instance, friends might not support us during problems or might challenge our perspectives, signalling a lack of affiliation. This undermines our sense of social support and trust, causing us to question their friendship, even if they aren’t overtly rude.

Girl, So Confusing Version With Lorde by Charli XCX.

The song is framed around the assumption that “being” and “feeling” like a girl is an important aspect of friendship trouble. Gender is a common way that people explain and understand their own and others’ behaviour. And having things in common is often assumed to be a prerequisite for close friendship. But what does this actually mean?

The song goes back and forth between worrying that they “don’t have much in common” and emphasising that “people say we’re alike”. It’s ambiguous about whether their similarities are superficial or meaningful. They talk about making music but Charli opines: “I don’t know if it’s honest.”

Generally, the way people communicate will provide clues about whether they are “in sync” or “vibing” with you. If your friend is not even interacting on a basic level that responds to the conversation you’re trying to have, it can feel very unsettling.

Of course, it also matters what kind of conversation it is. Sometimes it’s good to be, or we want to be, challenged by our friends.

Read more:
Four ways to have hard conversations with your friends – without making things worse

Three girls sat in chairs on a field
Having honest conversations with your friends is a better approach than assuming how they’re feeling.
Grace McCuistion/Dupe

While it’s tempting to just come out and ask what’s wrong – or as the song goes, leave a voice note – this approach could make things worse. Communication works (or doesn’t) based on the existing norms of the friendship.

So if you’re feeling tension within a friendship but don’t have the luxury of a new album to hash it out on, how can you resolve this? And when is it time to walk away from the friendship entirely?

1. Don’t assume

Avoid assuming you can guess why a friend is acting strangely. Identity categories such as gender are convenient explanations for behaviour and guessing how people think, but they are not always correct, and could do more harm than good.

Try to consider all the possible reasons someone might be behaving a certain way – not just the first or most obvious thing that comes to mind.

2. Ask questions

If your friend is still engaging with you, but not supporting you or not seeming involved in the conversation, you might briefly turn the conversation back to them.

In the song, both parties are projecting their own problems onto the other. Give your friend an opportunity to raise something that might be troubling them, and distracting them from giving you their full attention.

3. Know when to walk away

Some friendships aren’t worth the trouble. A friend might be dealing with issues that could harm you emotionally, requiring a temporary separation.

Emerging toxicity or incompatibility might also mean they’re no longer a good friend. If they consistently withdraw or undermine your perspective, it might be best to step back. Sadly, not all conflicts can, as the song goes, be “put to bed”.

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