Updated: Aug 4, 2021
*A live chat about this blog where I dig a little deeper into the concepts.
My parents mean the world to me. For months over the pandemic I watched as my mom & my dad lived in pretty much complete isolation on the farm. It hurt like hell not to hug them on Christmas, to sing my mom happy birthday through a window, & to watch the impact of perpetual boredom & lack of interaction.
There were different ideas between my siblings at times ~ what was most important? How should we balance rules for Covid safety with the very real implications for mental health? Everyone had my parents best interest at heart & still there were times of tension.
I share this with you because I know all of us, regardless of opinions, backgrounds, or political views can relate to this challenge ~ how do we maintain or repair our relationships when our thoughts, feelings, or ideas may be very different from others, especially when it's with those closest to us?
If there's anything we've learned over the last 18 months it's the necessity & challenge of relationships. We know intimately what it's like to be physically separated from the people we love. How dull life can become when we lose the magic of random encounters & jokes with acquaintances. And... we've experienced the discord of societal disagreement heightened by instinctual survival modes & exasperated through politicization & click bate media.
It's understandable that things have become strained in both society & perhaps in our personal relationships. Instinctual responses to fight, escape, fix, & defend often mask the very human stories & needs that exist beneath. However, on the other side of a back handed remark, rigid outlook, apathetic stance, or seeming inability to hear you is a human being dealing (in their own way) to their human experience.
It may not always be possible to repair or rebuild a relationship... but if we're willing to make the effort & recognize those areas of discord as opportunities for connection then we can grow stronger together.
This blog explores 6 ways that you might repair & rebuild your relationships (both personally & in society) starting right now.
1) Get Honest With Yourself
When a relationship has become fractured it's easy to lose ourselves in the mix. It usually goes one of three ways; we become worried or obsessed about what we did wrong, could have done better, etc... ; we go straight to to blame or judgement (i.e. how dare they say that, they never listen, they're are so ignorant!); or we become apathetic & disconnected.
It's difficult to repair a relationship when we are in any of these states. In order to meet another person the first things we need to do is meet ourselves. Step away & get clear about your experience. Give yourself permission to admit & & feel your emotions, notice your thoughts & assumptions & take ownership for those elements of the conflict that are yours. By gaining a more clear & accurate perspective of the situation, including your part in it, you will be more steady & open when you choose to discuss the situation.
Need help getting honest? Check out the blog Begin with You
2) Clarify Your Intention for Repair
I recently had someone reach out to discuss (& repair) a rather difficult situation from awhile back. Years ago I would instantly responded feeling urgency to fix' & to make sure the other person was happy.
But... this time I waited. I let myself feel the layers. There was a period of ' don't want to meet', a strong that I 'should' rush to 'fix' the situation... and then after a few days there was some old pain & eventually a genuine desire to connect & repair if possible. That's when I reached out.
To connect from a place of shared humanity, to build & demonstrate respect, or to seek mutual understanding are all intentions that rest in humility & care. These intentions are not about one upping, demonstrating that we are right (& they are wrong) or seeking another's validation. They are about respect.
When you land in a genuine intention that is mutually respectful & caring you set the stage for possibility. Sharing this intention can also serve to break the ice & offer an olive branch.
" I know things have been difficult between us & my desire is communicate with respect & care because you really do mean a lot to me"
3) Take Honest Responsibility
The only person that we can be responsible for is ourselves. When you're able to acknowledge your part in a conflict, to take responsibly (for what's yours), & apologize it increases the possibility for the person to do the same.
Honest responsibility is neither about appeasing someone or taking responsibility for something that isn't yours. It requires us to be humble, honest, & discerning. We demonstrate honest responsibility when we speak from ourselves, own our part, & refrain from blame or passive aggression.
Instead of... "I should've known that you'd be sensitive about __________ Sorry that you got upset" ( a rather passive aggressive non apology)
I realize I put you on the spot by bringing up ______ in that environment & it wasn't the appropriate time. I'm sorry.
Want to look deeper at apologies? Check out the blog I'm Sorry
4) Listen to Understand
We all know the frustration of being misunderstood. To communicate effectively with someone it's important to listen to understand. Observe the other person, ask questions to clarify points you don't understand, reflect back what you hear & check in to see if you've got it right.
Respect & understanding go hand in hand. When you genuinely seek to understand another it shows respect & invites them to do the same. It also gives you the opportunity to have a discussion around what is actually being said instead of missing the point.
5) Discern & Engage With What's Important
Respect is a two way street. One of the ways we can maintain our self & mutual respect is to only engage with those parts of the conversation that are relevant to our intention. Passive aggressive comments, blame, or insignificant details can cause knee jerk reactions, defensiveness, & sometimes lead us into the same ruts that fractured our relationship in the first place
If you feel attacked, defensiveness, or an urgency to please or 'fix' pause. Take a step back, get clear on what's important to you, & see if you can hear what's being said beyond the hurtful or disrespectful comments.
By seeking & engaging with the underlying issue (instead of getting defensive or people pleasing) you will have a much better chance of repairing the relationship.
It sounds like there's some anger or hurt around that for you. I genuinely didn't mean to hurt you. Would you mind telling me what it was I said or did that upset you?
6) Give it Space
Even when you've been honest, caring, & respectful to repair a relationship it often needs space. Emotion, assumptions, & past experiences all impact the way that we resolve & repair our relationships.
Give it time to heal and grow back.
You might reach out again when you're ready. Or, let them know you're available to talk again when they want to.
Small steps demonstrating care, honesty, & respect will nurture the path forward.
Where to Begin?
With all the chaos in our world today, it can be difficult to remember what matters most. But in times like these we have an opportunity to choose unity over division, understanding over assumption, & shared humanity over isolation.
When you think about that relationship that has been fractured it's helpful to take a moment & ask yourself...
Am I ready to acknowledge what's true for me without blaming myself or them?
Am I ready to own what I've done & take genuine responsibility for my actions?
Can I see them through the lens of shared humanity, understanding that each of us is going through our own experiences & processes?
If the answer is yes, then you're ready.
About the Author
Amy Thiessen is an international teacher, coach, & musician who focuses on helping individuals connect to their confidence, purpose, & self esteem through voice & communication. Offering a holistic approach Amy helps individuals uncover & overcome their unique blocks around voice & communication, connect to their self esteem & purpose, & ultimately express themselves in a way that is empowered & impactful.
1:1 coaching is the fastest way to overcome your blindspots & find deep & more impactful expression. Book a FREE consult to see how In Resonance Coaching can support your full expression today!.