Relationships can be challenging, each with its own unique set of issues. Whether on the job with co workers who can at times be condescending, to social encounters with individuals who are overly critical, to our most personal relationships with family members who deeply offend us with hurtful words – on every level our relationships can be seriously impaired and suffer deep wounds. However, even in the most serious cases, it is possible to repair the damage that has been done and restore the connection that once existed. Consider the three following components necessary to mend broken relationships:
1. Recognize: First and foremost, it is critical to recognize when we have said or done something offensive to the other party. We must be willing and able to identify our insensitivity, thoughtlessness, cruel remarks, or those times that we have let the other person down. In some instances where we are unable to discern our transgression, it can benefit us to seek those who can help to shed light on the situation. Additionally, it is equally as important to fully understand how deeply our actions impacted the other party. If you borrow money from someone with the promise to pay it back but renege on your agreement, this is a violation of trust. This issue is oftentimes about more than just money: it illustrates a complete lack of regard for the other person’s feelings as well as perhaps their financial situation. If the disrespected party feels as though you do not fully comprehend the serious impact your actions have had on them, it may be very difficult for them to move beyond the incident and rebuilt the trust. In their mind, there will always be the possibility that you will repeat the offense or another of equal or greater significance. Understanding, along with a sincere apology, is the first step towards a reconciliation.
2. Restitution: Words are cheap. A simple “I’m sorry for what I’ve done” may not be enough to repair the damage. In order to convey sincere regret, one must be willing to make restitution whenever possible. If I started a rumor about you at work that prevented you from securing the promotion you were being considered for, I need to come clean with those in a position of authority and do whatever I can to remedy the situation. Not only does this support my repentance for what I’ve done, it takes it one step further in showing that I am making a sincere attempt to right a wrong, thus restoring justice for the aggrieved party.
3. Reform: Apologies are a powerful tool in the reconciliation process but are meaningless if one does not put forth a concerted effort to change their behaviors. A husband who has a affair, apologizes and promises to be faithful cannot hope to regain the trust of his wife if, in fact, he continues to have contact with his mistress or finds a new love interest. The only way to rebuilt trust, the very foundation of every healthy relationship, is through consistent positive change. To repeat the same disrespectful behavior only causes further damage. New behavior brings new life to the damaged relationships and shows not only the person’s desire to change but their ability to do so as well. This offers the hope necessary to move things forward in the right direction. No change; no chance.
We live in a disposable society. Few take the time to repair that which is damaged or broken opting instead to discard it and replace it with something or someone new. Relationships are our most precious gifts and need to be consistently treated with dignity and respect. Rather than dispose of them, seek to restore and rebuild. With a sincere heart and some savvy skills, such as those I’ve outlined above, there is a strong possibility your relationship can be mended.
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