How to Repair Bad Relationships
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Even animals fight.
So seven billion people packed together with colorful emotions, a will to act, and a cache of needs and desires guarantees that emotions, choices, needs, and desires are surely going to clash at times. Tension between persons is never an easy thing to deal with, but it is normal and can be expected.
What is good though is the flexible nature of relationships. They stretch well to accommodate our assumptions, flare-ups, faults, and regrets and snap back just as well often stronger and healthier.
But it’s not automatic. Relationships take work and threatened relationships require unremitting attention to nurture them back to health—that is, if this is the goal of the parties involved. We may treat troublesome relationships as if they no longer matter to us, but they do stress and even depress us. It is not possible that we can so easily detach ourselves from a bond in which we’ve invested large amounts of time, energy, and love. Dying relationships are just that, small deaths.
So how can we heal troubled relationships? I offer three suggestions.
This means make sure the other person hears what you say as you mean it, and vice versa. Change is never a possibility until warring parties can agree to emotionally disengage and talk sensibly. Another way of saying it: close your chest of arsenals and open your heart. I understand that this can be difficult for some of us. Many people fear opening up emotionally. To do this means to expose ourselves to another person; and that is awkward for people who may have lived much of their lives hiding their true identity to settle for superficial individuality. So the point is not merely to communicate but to communicate honestly by going deeply within ourselves to clarify or resolve any issues that would foil an attempt to restore relationship with someone else.
Get the results you want. No, this is not having your way…the whole problem. Instead, it is moving beyond the trifles of what did or didn’t happen to create agreeable relations (first) that will foster resolution. So, seek to understand and act orderly and in a negotiable way. Clearly state what you want and also learn to compromise. What assertiveness is not is aggression, and people make the mistake in their minds that if they are to assert themselves they have to be negative or belligerent. This is wrong. Assertiveness rests in communication know-how: the knowledge of what pleases you, the motivation to go after it, and the respectful attitude to win it.
It is important that we know how far to take an issue that gets personal, not because we don’t wish to put everything on the table but because some things may not be ready for exposure. People cannot always handle the truth about themselves. Think about yourself: the secrets or faults you may keep that no one knows about—you think. Think about the people you may have confronted with their own personal bombshells and how they reacted to you, especially in the days thereafter.
I was a counselor during my years in college and often had people come to me for advice, willingly sharing their lives with me. I truly cared for these people and could often perceive correctly things they were not telling me. I had to be careful about what I could confront and what needed to be let alone.
You see, to confront people with their private misgivings and fears at inappropriate times can upend them psychologically. If we’re conscionable people we ought to believe that we cannot say things to others simply because we feel the right to say it or because it needs to be said. It may need saying but it also needs to be carried out with the utmost respect and care for the other party, even if that person is dead-wrong on the issue.
So let these three points get you started in the right direction. Strong relations matter.
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