Meaningful relationships are the key to our happiness — at home and at work. Sadly, I’ve heard too many stories of successful people abandoning relationships and pouring everything into their careers only to wake up years later feeling empty and unfulfilled. At the end of the day, humans are social creatures. We’re wired for connection. No amount of accomplishments or possessions will repress that.
Unfortunately, though, relationships are a double-edged sword. With as much happiness and joy they bring, they can also be a source of great misery — even if the fallout wasn’t our fault. If our relationships aren’t right, then nothing else is either. Our work and our personal lives both suffer. No, this doesn’t mean you’re weak or that you shouldn’t be in business. It means that you’re human.
Rather than shutting out our emotions and torturing ourselves, we need to learn how to make peace. By peace, I don’t mean passiveness or escapism. I mean standing your ground and tackling conflict head-on — for everyone’s sake.
Here are five ways to restore broken relationships from Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. I’ve added my own personal spin to them.
1. Take a breather and vent to someone who will challenge you.
It’s never wise to try and settle a conflict in the heat of the moment. In my experience, raw emotions tend to complicate the situation and cloud my judgment. Although it’s necessary to let them out eventually, it’s best to vent to a third party who can be a voice of reason. Air your frustrations and unleash the resentment you’ve been suppressing. It’s important to have a clear head before you confront this issue.
Also, this third party can help you narrow in on the real issue. Warren offered some words of wisdom here, “Most conflict is rooted in unmet needs.”
To ensure you get to the root of the problem, talk to someone who can help you identify the real reason you’re upset.
2. Don’t wait.
Be the bigger person and make the first move. The longer you wait, the longer you’ll suffer. Warren says, “It doesn’t matter if you’re the offended or the offender… In conflict, time heals nothing; it causes hurts to fester.”
I’m a frequent offender of this one. I tend to internalize problems until they boil over and cause a larger issue. Or, negativity affects my attitude towards that person. I can give a mean “cold shoulder” when I want to. The problem with that approach is that I end up looking like the immature one while digging a deeper hole.
I love this quote from Jonathan Lockwood Huie, “Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”
3. Show a little sympathy.
You’ll never solve a problem that you don’t understand. Take time to hear the other person out — feelings and facts. Too often, we immediately jump to solutions before uncovering the real issue.
This is especially hard to do when you’re on the defensive, or when you follow your knee-jerk reaction to go on the offensive. However, reaching a win-win solution is the only way to resolve a conflict.
Warren offers some great wisdom here. Listening says “I value your opinion, I care about our relationship, and you matter to me. The cliche is true: People don’t care what we know until they know we care.”
4. Be the first to own up to your mistake.
I’m not going to make any friends with this one. It’s tough. But, there’s no quicker way of defusing an argument than admitting your blunders. The sooner you apologize, the sooner you can get to a solution. And, there’s always something to apologize for — even if you didn’t “do anything.”
We all have blind spots. Take responsibility for yours, and you’ll neutralize the situation — nothing constructive will happen until you do.
In my experience, admitting my faults definitely hurt the ego, but it did wonders for the relationship.
5. Don’t make it personal.
In Warren’s words, “attack the problem, not the person.” AKA, don’t play the blame game. Insults and sarcasm will only make the situation worse. Abrasiveness has a way of turning people off to compromise.
In an argument, sometimes it’s less about what you say, and more about how you say it. To ensure you don’t make matters worse by offending others, focus on the issue rather than defaming anyone’s character.
Now, I’m not naive. Not every problem can be resolved. However, even if you can’t fix an issue, you can at least reconcile. What’s the difference? Warren says, “reconciliation focuses on preserving the relationship, while resolution focuses on the problem. When you emphasize the relationship, problems lose their significance.”
Are there any relationships that you need to mend?
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