Managing Self

Stuck in the middle

Written by Jill Farmer
Ali feels like she’s fallen into a chasm and she can’t climb out.


Her bosses are breaking up. The shine has dulled on their formerly sparkly start-up and “creative differences” are forcing the dynamic duo who founded the company to split.

Ali feels panicked, unsteady, and desperate for things to go back to how they one were.

I know how she feels.
You might too.
Maybe your parents can’t stand each other.
Your friends got in a fight.
Your grown kids don’t like each other.

For sensitive, conflict-averse people like Ali (and me) being caught in the middle between people we love who are at odds with each other can feel like the bottom has dropped out and we’re stuck in an abyss.

But, we don’t have to stay there.

Step #1-Ask for a rope.
There are lots of people who can throw Ali a line—an objective friend, a therapist, coach, pastor, relative, mailman-anyone who can listen and stay above ground. She doesn’t need someone to jump into the pit with her, just a loving pal to bring a strong rope (and maybe jelly beans. and the Hamilton soundtrack). The rope bringer cannot be her bosses (or anyone else in the company.) Right now, they’re wedged in their own chasms, and all they have to give is dental floss.

Step #2-Stay focused on where you have a foothold.
Once Ali has her line, and it’s securely anchored up top by someone she trusts, she can start the climb out. But, she needs to pay attention to her steps.

If she lets her mind wander to the past…
“I never would’ve come to work here if I’d known this could happen.”
Or to scary future projections…
“I’ll never find a job I love like this again.”

She’ll lose her footing and the ascension will be hard (like Vaseline on the bottom of her shoes hard). The strongest footholds come from being present, one step at a time.

Step #3-Stay off the tightrope.
Once she’s on land, Ali needs to resist the urge to try to fix the discord. That’s like heading back over the gorge on a tightrope. That high wire has been a favorite perch for me. I’ve often tried to get feuding friends to “hear the other side out.” But, it’s really my inner fixer’s passive-aggressive attempt to get my friends to make peace so I can feel better. Figure out how you can be okay (safe and present) even when people you care about aren’t in harmony with each other. Understand the sparring parties may really want you to tell them they’re right and the other person is wrong. But, that’s not the equipment they need to get out of their own crevasse.

As humans, we love connection and collaboration. We’re wired to prefer kinship.

But, sometimes friendships, partnerships, and work relationships break up.
And, sometimes, it’s exactly perfect for everyone involved—(even those of usrying to hold on to the way it was.)


About the author

Jill Farmer

I love helping people get more meaningful work done in less time. I am the author of "There's Not Enough Time... and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves" which debuted as a bestseller in the Time Management Category on Amazon. In 2015, The Washington Post named me to its 21-Day Time Hacker team. I travel the world delivering keynotes and seminars for top corporations and organizations. I am also a wife and the mother of two teens and I have the two worst-behaved dogs in the universe. You can reach me at or visit my website

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.