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So. I give friend A a lift to a bar. A is on crutches, and can’t stand up for long. So I go in to meet the other friends I’m meeting there and to make sure there’s somewhere for them to sit.

There is nowhere for them to sit. But friend B, who was already there, offers to give up his seat for A.

Great! Except it isn’t.

A refuses and offers to wait in the car, saying he would not enjoy being in the bar knowing he was depriving B of his seat. B insists, saying he would not enjoy being in the bar knowing that A was having to wait outside.

And what should have been a kind gesture escalated into a horrible conflict with me in the middle. At one point A asked me to take him home so the conflict would be moot, whereupon B said that if A did that, he (B) would leave too, cutting short the visit for all the other people he’d driven down (which was everyone else).. because if A left, B would feel he had driven A away. It was only because an extra seat became available that the situation ended.

I have no idea how to deal with this and similar conflicts have brewed that threatened the entire group. How can I resolve a conflict between two people who want to avoid causing any inconvenience, when this is inevitable?

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    What have you tried? Have you tried talking to either one afterwords to try to discuss the situation and see how it could have been different? – DaveG Jul 3 '18 at 20:10
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    That is more or less what happened, although I only had to go back and forth two or three times. – Mark Green Jul 3 '18 at 20:51
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    @Tinkeringbell Permanent. Although that isn’t really relevant - similar situations have come up involving others who are able-bodied. – Mark Green Jul 3 '18 at 21:04
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    Do you, by any chance...live in Canada? (jokes aside, a location tag might help with regards to cultural norms on politeness in these situations) – spiral succulent Jul 3 '18 at 23:40
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    I find the question title (and text in bold) confusing. If they didn't want to cause inconvenience, they could have just stopped doing this incredibly stupid act and especially stopped pulling you into the middle of it. To me the question text reads like they clearly didn't mind causing quite some inconvenience to their (uninvolved) friends. Could you please clarify? – AllTheKingsHorses Jul 4 '18 at 17:23
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If that is actually what happened, then the only advice that I have for you is to find different friends. Here's what would have happened with normal people: B offers his chair, A sits down, everything done. But what happened?

B wanted to be polite. No, not polite, he wanted to do the right thing. If one person is on crutches, and one isn't, then any person will agree that the one on crutches should get the chair.

A takes this and turns it into a drama. Any normal person would have just sat down. And then, if I had been in B's position, once A turns down the chair, that's it. If I offer my seat, and he doesn't want it, he doesn't get it. Instead B starts a counter-drama where oh no, he is so hard done by by A.

Now A intends to leave, which at this point is probably a good idea, and then B goes completely mad and threatens to leave, which means everyone who came in his car has to leave too. Which is indeed a nasty thing to do.

So these two people between them, manage to turn a nice get together into a total disaster. They are behaving worse than children. So what can you do?

Since misunderstood "politeness" caused this disaster, you can talk to each one in private, and tell them as bluntly as possible how stupid their behaviour was, and that you find it completely unacceptable, and you are not putting up with this. If they don't change, look for new friends. You are saying, they both felt "threat of punishment". That's just not adult behaviour.

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You can give your friends lifts. And you can make sure that there is somewhere for them to sit. But you cannot make sure there will be a seat, and you cannot prepare for a conflict between two of your friends because you cannot control how they will be feeling and how they will interact with each other. So the answer is - you cannot resolve their problem - for it is their problem.

What you can do is support them as you have done, and you can feel for them and reason with them. Your are a good friend to them and they will listen to you. If this sort of thing happens again then reason with each of them. But do not worry about resolving something which happens in an instant between two other people because you cannot. You can only watch and wait so stop thinking there is a way to solve it. It has to solve itself. Because it depends upon the friends involvement and reasonability.

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I have seen this behaviour in people that have disabilities before. It's not so much being a burden for other people but being able to do things themselves and/or without people offering unrequested help.

In this case, I'm very certain that none of this would have happened if A would have been able to ask B for the seat and then B giving it up.

By B giving the seat up the moment they heared A was with you, A got the 'you are disabled, you can not stand, I (B) have to give you my seat' message right in their face.

This behaviour/protocol-ish dance will usually subside after meeting a few times.

So, tl;dr, next time go in, make sure that there is at least one seat available. Don't let B get up, get out to A again and tell them the situation

Version A: B - or whoever - has a seat but no other seat is available but you are pretty sure that if no seat opens up and A needs to sit down for a while B would be open to giving it up

Version B: B - or whoever - has a seat but no other seat is available so you three have to share. Since you are having a bad day/long day at work you, too need to sit down for a few minutes.

Version B is a bit dicy to get right (choice of words) but that way A's need to sit down is put kind of on the same level as everyone else's need to sit or at least your need to sit so he isn't alone. However, Version B requires that A can stand at least for a few minutes without hurting too much.

  • That's all good and well, but the fact is that two supposedly adult people managed within a short time to turn a group of people meeting at a bar into a total disaster. It makes you think how these two people would handle an actual conflict situation. – gnasher729 Jul 4 '18 at 20:27

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