Wednesday

What To Do When You Feel You Have Burned A Bridge With Someone

It happened one day, you said too much.  You wanted to take back everything you just said, but it was too late.  Everyone looked at you with a strange look of surprise, anger, and some even smirked.  You heard someone mumble, “He really did it this time!”  It’s what most of us fear, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.  How do you rebuild a broken relationship with a boss or co-worker?

Time may heal all wounds for many people, but you don’t have much time in the workplace.  The threat of being written up, suspended or dismissed, looms on the horizon.  You need to start mending fences now.  If you realize at that very moment what you did was wrong and apologized that was half the battle.  Just as everyone was there for the negative statements, they were also there for the sincere apology.  However, there is still more work to do.  The following suggestions will, at the very least, put you on the right path to mend fences; however, the ultimate decision to let you back into the heart of the offended rests with him or her.  

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1. Make the time to personally apologize if you haven’t already.  If it happened publicly, you may want to offer a public apology as well, but ask them first.  They may not want to be embarrassed a second time. (If they live out of town either call or write regarding your apology.)

2. Explain to them what you meant without looking as if you are justifying the statement or covering yourself.

3. Tell them that they have every right to be angry.

4. Offer to do something for them.  You may know this person well enough to invite them to dinner, participate in a chore, do them a favor, etc.

5. Follow up with them on a later date with flowers, candy or some other charming gift. (Don’t do this on a daily or weekly basis it loses its impact and you may be considered a nuisance.) 

6. Make a personal phone call just to see how they are doing.  Don’t mention the negative event if they don’t.  Make the conversation short and simple.

7. Talk about something from the past that affected both you and the offended positively.  This helps with opening the lines of communication back up again.

8. Remember he or she during the holidays or their children’s birthdays.  If you have acknowledged these dates in the past don’t stop, and if you haven’t ever don’t begin.  You don’t want any false assumptions made in either instance.

9. Don’t go around asking their co-workers, friends, family members, etc. about what they said about you.  It may be something that will anger you and as we all know “two wrongs don’t make it right.”

10. Allow he or she some space.  If you don’t typically talk to this person very often, don’t start.  If you don’t see him or her often, don’t make a point to keep showing up at their doorstep, workplace or somewhere else.  Allow time to heal.

Although the statement was offensive, you may not have felt there was anything wrong with what was said, avoid being insensitive around him or her and witnesses.  Some people will make the mistake of apologizing then tell a mutual friend how they really feel.  If your true feelings leak out to others, then the person you offended will know you were being insincere.  

Use the negative event to help you see where you went wrong.  If many people tell you that you need to stop making offensive comments, then you know you have a problem.  However, if everyone knows you are a great guy or gal and you didn’t mean anything negative about what you said, then just make a note to yourself that the offended person is someone you may have to watch what you say around.  Be careful spending time with he or she at social events, you don’t want to be misunderstood again and will have to repeat this process on rebuilding your relationship with him or her.

Nicholl McGuire is the author What Else Can I Do on the Internet?

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