When things go wrong and people get hurt, medical first aid is essential. The same is true for conflict first aid. The aims of medical first aid are to preserve life, prevent harm and promote recovery. The aims of conflict first aid are to protect what is important, prevent harm and restore relationships.In my last blog, we looked at how to prevent harm in conflict. A previous blog gave 3 tips on how to protect what is important. Continuing on the theme of conflict first aid, this post concentrates on the third principle: restore relationships.
Three Steps to Restore Relationships
1. Put your own oxygen mask on first
When conflict occurs, everyone is hurt. We become defensive or angry, emotions swamp us, and logic flies out the window. Then, we react in unhelpful ways. The situation deteriorates as misunderstandings multiply. In air safety instructions, you are told to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others, so that you can survive and think clearly, thus being able to help others more effectively. To restore relationships, make sure you are thinking clearly and have addressed your own needs.
- Acknowledge: Take a few deep breaths. If possible, take some time out and acknowledge your pain. Think about what the relationship means to you and how important it is to restore it. Think what you need to move on and a range of options.
- Assess: Write out what happened or talk to someone you trust to give honest feedback. What could you have done differently? Were your assumptions valid? What else might have been behind the other person’s behaviour? How could you improve the situation now?
- Accept: Take responsibility for what you did or said that might have contributed to the conflict. Accept that the other person might not want to talk or restore the relationship. It may take time. Realise that you cannot change the other person.
- Act: Generally, ignoring a problem in a relationship doesn’t work and usually things will fester. Don’t wait for the other person to make the first move. Here are some tips on how to start difficult conversations.
Are you thinking, “But it wasn’t my fault…”? If so, go back to step 1 or read about the benefits of forgiveness here. Until we can admit our contribution, we can’t move forward. There is almost always something that we could have done differently or expressed better. An apology may be the superglue of life, however, it needs to be a real one!
An apology is not a chance to defend or excuse one’s actions. Saying “I’m sorry you were offended” is not an apology–it tacitly blames the other person for taking offence.
Never ruin an apology with an excuse.
A good apology expresses remorse, acknowledges the pain you caused the other and offers something to put things right. To be effective, an apology needs to be sincere and followed through. That is why Step 1 is so important. We can all tell when people are just mouthing the words. Here is a helpful video.
3. Do what you say you will
Be realistic about what you can offer to put things right. If you can’t do anything to put things right, be honest about it. Nothing damages a relationship more than broken promises.
You can’t talk your way out of something you behaved your way into. You have to behave your way out of it.
Doug Conant (CEO of Campbell Soup, as quoted in Harvard Business Review)
Just one broken promise can destroy trust. Rebuilding relationships and trust takes a long time and patience. Don’t expect the other person to forgive or change. It may be that whatever you do, the relationship cannot be restored. How can you come to terms with this?
If you would like some help with this, here is a leaflet with prices for some of the services I offer to help you rebuild relationships.Client Leaflet with Prices .
Alternatively, ring me on +447980920078 for a free confidential exploration of whether I can help or refer others who might.