post # 220 — October 20, 2006 — a Careers, Client Relations, Managing post
In the normal course of life, we do a thousand little things that annoy other people, and they do a million that annoy us. Occasionally, all this irritation boils over into an intemperate â€˜spat.â€ We complain, we say something harsh, or we say something valid in a harsh way.
It can happen with a client, a boss, a subordinate, a peer, a romantic partner, a friend or a family member.
Of course, you acknowledge that you were guilty, too, but you feel that your sins are less because:
(a) you were RIGHT
(b) you had a good reason for what YOU did
(c) the other person was unfair
(d) they started it
(e) youâ€™re going to be the one who has the final word, come hell or high water
The temptation is always to dwell on the hurtful things the other person said, or the ways they let you down. The temptation is to burn your bridges, or engage in extensive discussions to prove you were in the right.
Bad idea. The thing that set the other person off may not have been the thing theyâ€™re complaining about. Often, itâ€™s not. Frequently, resentments accumulate and the final topic that causes the explosion is, more often than not, only the excuse for the bad temper, not the real cause.
One of the hardest things in the world is to stand aside from all this, and ask â€œDo I want to end the relationship right now, or try to restore it over time?â€ Itâ€™s hard to ask â€˜Whatâ€™s in my best interests here?â€™ Itâ€™s hard, but necessary, to put aside — at least temporarily- the issue of who was right and who was wrong.
One of the most elusive — and valuable — talents, is the ability to mend broken fences. Some people are terrific at it, others donâ€™t have the personality for it. But my rule is that I donâ€™t believe in half-relationships. Weâ€™re either in this fully together or I donâ€™t want to play.
That doesnâ€™t mean that I donâ€™t realize that sometimes the relationship is on probation. When trying to mend fences, note that you will need to discuss whatever set you both off, but not right when it happened. The more you try to â€œexplainâ€ your side, the more self-justifying (and annoying) you will become. Remember the goal is to heal, not to have the argument yet one more time.
Just move on together. Weeks, months or years from now you can discuss who did what to whom, but until time has performed its magic, youâ€™ll get nowhere trying to heal hurt feelings with logic. Just acknowledge that the underlying mutual respect is there — the commitment to make it work — and get back to work.
Relationships are more important than blame.
What are YOUR tips for getting through these terrible times?