“It wasn’t my argument. I didn’t want to take sides. I TOLD them both I didn’t want to take sides and now they are BOTH mad at me.” The frustration was palpable through the phone.
It seems no matter how hard we try to “not get involved” we end up caving to the expectation that we take sides in a disagreement and then we are involved. Doing so almost always ends with both people mad at us. I’ve experienced it and I’ve heard it more times than I can count.
There is a way to handle it so you don’t get drawn in and both people aren’t angry with you. Try this:
Listen to both sides. Separately of course. But listen. Really, really listen. Show that you’re listening by saying things like “Wow, it sounds like you are really frustrated” or “I can tell you’re really frustrated.” Acknowledge but don't agree or disagree.
When they are finished sharing their side of the story ask this question: Did you just want to vent or do you want to problem solve?
If they reply that they just needed to vent, respond by saying, “Wonderful! I hope I helped you feel better.” End of conversation.
If they want to problem solve start the conversation by asking what their perfect solution would be and then ask them to brainstorm what they think the other person’s perfect solution might be. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into making suggestions or saying “I agree with you. He/She was wrong.” Just keep listening and asking questions.
Finally, once they have worked through the problem and their solution you can say, “It sounds like you’re ready to talk to him/her” with a smile. End of conversation.
At no point do you have to pick a side or say you don’t want to be involved. Avoid the temptation to share information from one person to the other. Your role is to listen and ask questions. That is all.
As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!