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Why address problems and drama head on?

RP is no fun without lots of awesome friends, so it's very important to take good care of the friendships that you have.

Although it's nearly impossible to spend weeks, months or years with someone and not eventually have a problem of some variety, most of these issues can be resolved without fuss if you know how to approach them.

Maybe you feel the RP is in a rut and you want to suggest your friend move out of their comfort zone with you. Maybe they said something offhand that surprised and shocked you. Maybe they stood you up for play dates few times too often. Whatever it is, we're all human; we all need forgiveness, and we all need other people to honor our boundaries too.

There's two ways that a conflict can go:

  • You can keep getting more and more frustrated until the RP, the friendship, or perhaps even the entire group comes to a grinding halt (or explodes in a ball of flaming drama)
  • The problem can be dealt with and you can keep on having good times with your RP group.

The hard part is knowing what to do to get outcome #2.

There's only one guarantee: Not dealing with the problem will ALWAYS lead to the game being less fun, and eventually, ending entirely.

Bringing up problems is hard, but it's important you do as quickly as possible

It's incredibly tempting to not address problems with your friends, for fear of rankling them and destroying everyone's fun.

But here's a thought: When you bottle up problems, you stop having fun. Honest. Life sucks when you feel like you're putting up with someone else's disrespect or issues. You're not a martyr, you're a gamer. There's a difference!

And when you stop having fun, you stop wanting to play.

So here's my point. Given the nature of RP, you can only game when your RP partners are turning up to game. If your RP partners choose to stop playing instead of telling you what's wrong, you're not having fun anymore! Talking stuff out can be difficult, but it's much more fun than the alternative.

So the next time you're considering leaving because you're not having fun anymore, remember: Your RP partners want to have fun too, and the only way they can have it is if you are having fun. Remind yourself that you're not being mean, you're doing your partners a tremendous favor by discussing issues with them.

And it goes a step further! Most people don't just want to have fun, they also want to feel that their RP partners like them and are their friends. If you don't want to confront because it might be mean, consider that it might be much meaner to assume that your friend won't try new things to help you be happy and comfortable.

Addressing your concerns, whatever they might be, can strengthen your friendships and prevent bigger problems down the road.

So be excellent to each other, and tell your friends (gently and with love) what they can do to help you be a happy member of your group.

How to talk to friends about problems

Above, we discussed that as scary or mean as it can feel to "confront" someone who is hurting your feelings or making the game a drag, it can be much meaner to not let them know how they can help you out.

Once you've got the nerve to tell them, what do you say?

#1: Assume that the person who is giving you trouble wants to be your friend

Most people want to be liked and want others to think well of them. Most people want to be good friends with the people they choose to play games with. But most people are also, sadly, people, and don't always know how to accomplish it. Before you do anything, take a deep breath and convince yourself, at least for the duration of the conversation, that whatever has been going on was an accident and this person would be your friend if they knew how. Giving them that benefit of the doubt costs you nothing, and sets the conversation up to go well.

#2: Start simple, and focus on yourself

Reading a huge dissertation on how you've been hurtful can put people on the defensive. Start with a brief, non-accusatory note. Something like, "Hi (person), you probably didn't realize it, but that joke you made about Norwegian fish actually cut pretty close to home for me and I've been working up the nerve to tell you. I don't want this to damage our awesome RP or friendship. Can we talk about it a bit?"

If they're willing, you can then discuss why and how it hurt you -- but the first step is just opening the door. When they get to step through it themselves, they're apt to be less defensive and more curious how to help.

#3: Use a friendly title, too

First impressions matter. Every first impression! Make sure you aren't putting your friend into defensive mode before they even start reading your message by picking a non-scary subject for the message as well. It's scary to get a message with a name like "Concern" or "Problem" or "Can we talk?", and people with elevated heart rates have pretty poor reading comprehension skills.

Instead, try "Hey there!" or "About that Norwegian fish joke" or even "You know what would make this RP even cooler?"

#4: Keep your eye on the prize

This may be a difficult conversation for you to have, and you may be tempted to give up, but being silently unhappy is worse! Be honest and keep at it. You can guarantee you'll stay unhappy by doing nothing, but you give yourself (and your friend) a chance to have fun again by talking about it.

#5: Acknowledge any positive progress immediately

Changing habits is hard work! Even if your friend isn't able to immediately change their tune, if you notice any improvement, make sure to "catch them in the act of doing something right." If they apologize, thank them for their apology. If they change their behavior, send them a PM thanking them for being willing to try new things.

#6: Finish by asking if you can help THEM have more fun, too

If you've been silent about issues for awhile, chances are that your RP partner has sensed that something is off, and felt a little hurt too. See if you can do something to restore the warmth.

What to do if you receive a message from a friend asking you to talk about a problem

Asking someone if they can alter or explain their behavior to help with hurt feelings or other social fallout is a difficult message to send.

But it can also be a difficult message to receive. You've just been given a golden opportunity to strengthen a friendship, but it may not feel like that at first. Keep these tips in mind to increase your chances at a positive outcome.

First thing's first: You must answer. Right now. This very second. If you value your friendship with this person, or you value the potential of friendship with that person, or you value the social circle you and this person are both a part of, you need to answer that message promptly. Even if it's tough.

If you don't know what to say, say that! But say it quickly. "Wow, I had no idea. I am so surprised I don't know what to say. I'm really sorry you were so unhappy. Can I take a day or two to do some soul searching before we have a good chat about this?"

Notice that this response is friendly, it acknowledges the other person's feelings, but it doesn't admit to having done something wrong -- it just contains a promise to think about it.

It can be difficult or hurtful to receive a message saying you hurt someone's feelings, but resist the urge to shout, insult or throw blame back. It won't make your friend any happier with you. It won't help at all! If you've got your own beef, be open to acknowledging issues on both sides.

If you cultivate the skill of being curious and asking questions rather than being defensive, you will rapidly become a pinnacle of the community, and the sort of person that RP groups revolve around and depend on. You will be... epic.

Not sure if you should bring it up?

What happens if you don't actually know why someone is being weird? It can be hard to know if someone is being mean to you or just plain distracted. Sometimes, you feel awkward or unhappy, but you don't have anything concrete to call a person out on so you don't want to say anything at all.

Unfortunately, this usually leads to more feelings of awkwardness and unhappiness, and can take the joy out of RP for everyone just the same as more overt problems.

So brace yourself. This is a doozy.

You're going to ask them.

Check this out! It's super easy:

"I get the impression you're uncomfortable or unhappy. Is something wrong? Can I do anything to make you feel more relaxed or welcome?"

Whoa. Doesn't that feel better?

Sometimes people want to bring up an issue, but they don't know how, or are afraid, and you can help keep the good times rolling by letting them know that you do want to be their friend and you're open to talking about their worry. And remember, you're just asking to talk about it, not committing to anything -- on the super unlikely off-chance that they ask for something completely outrageous, you can still politely decline.

Sometimes there's no issue at all, but RL distractions can have them behaving oddly and sending signals they didn't mean to send, and knowing that's the reason can be a huge relief.

So give it a try!

Patterns: What to do if drama follows you no matter where you go

If you've been in a lot of RP communities and consistently had the same problem in all of them, that might be a clue that there's something about you that needs addressing. It's possible that you've had a run of bad luck, but it's even more likely that you've got some habit that's triggering people's worst selves instead of their highest selves. I know, it sucks to think about, because you rock. And that's not sarcasm. But let's entertain the idea for a minute and face some hard stuff.

Luckily, breaking these patterns is often deceptively simple. Start by getting curious. It's easy to be angry, feel like a victim, or complain about people being petty, but table that for now. You can come back to it later if you feel you need to, promise.

First, find someone you trust, and who has strong ties in your RP community. They'll know what's up.

And then you're going to work some serious magic, and you're going to ask. Observe!

"Hello (person), I'm writing to you because I admire and trust you. And I know I can trust you to be honest with me. I keep having this issue wherever I go. I always feel like I'm being (excluded/looked down on/attacked/mocked/your issue here) every time I join a new RP group. It happens so often, I want to do something to make sure it doesn't happen here. Since you are a good friend of mine, please tell me directly, is there something I could change to get better reactions from people? I promise not to be upset with you!"

Then there's the hard part. You have to make good on your promise not to shoot the messenger. Just keep telling yourself, it takes a real friend who loves you to be honest with you. The social stigmas against honesty are enormous, and it's something that people only do when they trust and adore each other. If your friend says something that's hard to stomach, they are probably demonstrating a very deep level of trust and respect. They're showing you that they think you are strong, smart, and capable of being even more excellent. Even if it stings, that should give you some warm and fuzzy feelings at the same time.

Preventing drama

The single most common reason for friendships and RP communities to fall apart is the fear of having hard talks. Issues fester in silence until the group dissolves.

This is remarkably easy to prevent. Do you have people in your life that you love? People in your life that you love to play with? Games you don't ever want to end?

Take pre-emptive action to protect them, and message your bestest best buddies today. Tell them how much you adore playing with them, what you like about them OOC, and then tell them: "If I ever accidentally hurt your feelings or bore you, I want you to tell me right away. Even if it isn't fun to hear, I like you too much to ever want to let this fall apart. I'm open to any tough talk any time, okay?"

This is true mastery of being excellent to each other. Here's to many more years of drama-free gaming together!

If it gets out of hand anyway

If drama has gotten out of hand to the point where you are being harassed, please block the offender and contact a moderator immediately for help.

Do not reply to insults, harassment or other baiting; you will only fan the flames. Simply block the person and ask for help.

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