Burned that bridge? All hope is not lost.

Blog | November 30, 2021

Nothing is irreparable: You CAN come back from anything.

No relationship is irreparable, and no situation insurmountable. 

I’m NOT saying that anything goes, and you have to put up with a terrible boss or a crappy working relationship. 

(I’m excluding outright abusive situations here that include the perpetuation of systems of oppression. Those kind of relationships are inexcusable and if someone is perpetuating harmful behavior, they need to start doing their own work.)

I’m talking about our day to day interpersonal interactions: when difficult emotions arise, instead of acting out, we can make a choice. 

Take those days when you’re feeling a bit off-kilter, a bit extra-sensitive, and are on the edge of saying something you’ll regret later. (No one can relate, I‘m sure.)

When we’re depleted—not grounded, sleep-deprived, hungry, overwhelmed—we’re more likely to default to our worst patterns, and more likely to take things personally.

Or maybe you’re deeply entrenched in an ongoing conflict and you can’t see a way out.

Some years ago, I was brought in to mediate with three different stakeholders, each from a different area of the company, that had to work together. 

It was a nightmare.

None of them worked for each other and their work overlapped, so each person felt highly territorial and defensive, resulting in a toxic lack of collaboration.

This happens often in tech companies where infrastructure is growing so fast, different teams end up hiring for similar roles, and no one talks to each other.

Until they have to. And then it gets messy..

In the mediation case, it was a lit powder keg. 

Each person constantly undermined the others’ work and bad mouthed each other to co-workers to the detriment of projects they were working on.

They were going around each other to get things done. 

And not one of their managers was helping them gain clarity on the organizational chaos. They had no direction.

It was creating an issue throughout the company, and seemingly irreversible bad blood between all three colleagues.

Finally, one of them reached out to me and asked for help.

“This is getting really bad,” she said. “I can see this exploding, and no one’s in our corner.”

“We have no leaders advocating for us, and I think it’s in our best interest to come together, the three of us, and figure it out.”

So I agreed and led a structured, three-hour mediation. Each wrote on index cards what they thought the others felt, perhaps considering their compatriots’ experiences for the first time—a true, step-by-step mediation.

And still, it was awful. There was so much anger in the room, even I walked away feeling exhausted and angry. I was gearing myself up for another session to continue to help them work this out.

Then I got an email, about a week later, from the colleague who had originally reached out to me for help, saying “Oh my God, Rachel. Everything’s changed.”

It turns out that on one of the breaks, as she and one of the other people chitchatted on the walk back into the meeting room, they discovered a common interest in yoga. “Oh, where do you do it?” 

Then later, after the meeting, they picked up that thread again. 

It was enough to spark a connection—on which they could build a working relationship.

Even in the throes of something bad, you can always come back. I would even go further to say that from the throes of the trenches, connections are deepened and relationships are strengthened.

That’s the remarkable thing about difficult conversations and interpersonal relationships. 

The gift of initiating that first conversation is that it’s never the last; the BEST part of a difficult conversation is that you have to have it again. 

Even if it goes poorly, you’re going to have to have a follow-up. There’s always a chance for a redo. AND do not underestimate the power of simply having the conversation.  Simply having an honest conversation brings underlying tensions to the surface, starts to release bad energy and initiates a deepening of trust.

That’s the gift of being able to make mistakes and then do what we can to redeem ourselves. And, when you work to repair a relationship after a rupture, it can actually deepen

Just going through hard things together can be a powerful connector. Because you’ve been in the trenches together.

Nothing is irreparable. What’s key is STARTING the conversation.Have you seen a cross-departmental collaboration turn into the Wild West? Or found yourself or colleagues saying or doing things they regret? It IS all fixable. You’ve got this—and we can help. Schedule a complimentary discovery call to learn more today.

Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant