Thom Singer wrote a thoughtful post on how to revive a relationship that’s gone sour. He writes:
Sometimes it is easy when you have a large circle of friends and professional contacts to place the blame on the other person. Obviously the issue cannot be you, as there are many examples of folks who adore you….so the problem must rest with the other person. I disagree, as to have a positive relationship takes the effort of both people. Besides, taking responsibility to fix a bad connection is not the same as admitting guilt. Instead it shows you really care about your networking and are willing to give folks a second chance.
What I really like is the part where he says, “…taking responsibility to fix a bad connection is not the same as admitting guilt.” I think this is where we get hung up so many times. We hold on to the notion that in order to salvage a relationship, we always need to have an intense dialogue where we confess our past sins and then hope the other party does the same. In some cases, this course of action is unavoidable but I’d argue that its only for the most exceptional cases where feelings have been deeply hurt. For most of our relationships – particularly professional relationships – asking for a clean slate offers some strong advantages. Here’s how Thom cleans the slate:
I take a moment to let them know where I was disappointed in the past, but also own the fact that I cannot really know their situation, and that I do not need an explanation or apology, but instead I would just like to start over.
The greatest advantage of this path is that we’re way more likely to engage in this type of dialogue than we are if we choose to go into full confessional mode whenever a conflict arises in a relationship. Not only is the latter time consuming, it’s painful…and most of us want to avoid painful interpersonal encounters.