We bought a dog instead of rescuing one. It cost me a friend : Life Kit An ideological difference over adopting versus shopping for a pet causes a rift between friends. Tania Israel, a professor of psychology, shares advice about how to have difficult conversations with people you care about.

Dear Life Kit: We bought a dog instead of rescuing one. It cost me a friend

Dear Life Kit: We bought a dog instead of rescuing one. It cost me a friend

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Photograph by Ethan Richardson/Unsplash; Collage by NPR
A photograph of a golden doodle with a guilty expression on its face. To the right of the doodle are text messages bubbles showing that someone has been reaching out again and again with no response. On the left is a gray text message bubble that shows typing.
Photograph by Ethan Richardson/Unsplash; Collage by NPR

Need some really good advice? Look no further than Dear Life Kit. In each episode, we pose one of your most pressing questions to an expert. This question was answered by Tania Israel, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Dear Life Kit,

Last year, our family lost our beloved dog to old age. It took us all quite a bit of time to heal, and her death was particularly felt by a family member going through cancer treatment. After our family member went into remission, he wished for a puppy. He looked endlessly at shelters and rescues, but the particular breed he wanted was difficult to come by.

In the meantime, I mentioned to a close friend that my family was seeking a puppy but wasn't having much luck. The friend is a volunteer for a dog rescue and offered to find us a puppy. However, my family member ended up finding his dream puppy through a very reputable, longtime breeder. The breeder conducted interviews with our family and our veterinarian to make sure we were a good fit.

Now, my close friend is no longer on speaking terms with us. I reminded her that my family has rescued numerous animals over the years, and this was not a decision that we took lightly. I received no response. I don't know if I should try to salvage this friendship or let it go. — Ruff stuff

Tania Israel is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the author of "Beyond Your Bubble: How to Connect Across the Political Divide, Skills and Strategies for Conversations That Work." Photograph by Bob Blackwell; Collage by NPR hide caption

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Photograph by Bob Blackwell; Collage by NPR

On whether to let your friendship go, remember that we can always set up boundaries around who we want to have in our lives and who we don't. But we can also find ways of growing in a relationship by acknowledging that people can see things from a different perspective.

Having a complex and grounded understanding of where other people might be coming from helps us in our relationships as partners, parents, coworkers and community members.

We don't know how that friend is feeling. But we do know that the writer is emphasizing the details that put them in the right. They say the breeder was reputable and responsible. They had rescue dogs in the past and were trying to help someone with cancer. They're generating these responses to try to show that their behavior was justifiable.

When we see things from only one perspective, we miss out on the opportunity to broaden our understanding of different views. And that's actually disempowering.

The next step for the writer is to find out how the friend is feeling and lead a conversation with curiosity rather than a justification for their own behavior. Maybe start with something like, "You offered help and we went in a different direction. And I wonder how that's sitting with you." Then listen to what they have to say.

Listen to Tania Israel's full response in the audio at the top of the page or on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Have a question for Dear Life Kit? Share it anonymously here.

Dear Life Kit is hosted by Andee Tagle and produced by Beck Harlan and Sylvie Douglis with help from our intern Jamal Michel. Bronson Arcuri is the managing producer and Meghan Keane is the supervising editor. Alicia Zheng produces the Dear Life Kit video series for Instagram.

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