Exacting revenge is easy—and destructive. Healing a broken relationship takes open, honest dialogue
By Ben Timmermans, CLAC Representative
John and Matt usually enjoy working with each other. But lately, Matt has been abrupt with John, and it’s really starting to affect their camaraderie at work.
It doesn’t seem like much at first, but their relationship slowly deteriorates over time. Soon, others at work start to take notice.
Even though John and Matt think their worsened relationship only affects them, the truth is that poor relationships affect everyone on your team. They create a toxicity that pervades everything and makes coming to work a real chore.
How do you fix this? Through hard work and by owning the failed relationship.
Even if John thinks it’s Matt’s fault, he will be hurt until he approaches Matt openly and honestly. He needs to let Matt know how his actions have been making him feel.
John also needs to understand that Matt’s abruptness may have nothing to do with him. Matt may be going through some troubles at home, dealing with a sick relative, financial pressures, or any number of life’s problems that can affect any one of us at any time. Everyone has their own private battles that others are unaware of, and sometimes they intrude into the workplace.
There’s a popular book that’s been out for a few years creatively titled The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F#ck by Mark Manson. The author starts by letting his readers know that, despite the title of his book, happiness doesn’t lie in NOT caring, but rather in caring a lot about what matters most. And, no surprise, real relationships are right up there.
Early on in the book, Manson hits on a universal truth that applies to any authentic, real relationship. “The pain of honest confrontation is what generates the greatest trust and respect in your relationships,” he writes. He goes on to say that “everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.”
For John and Matt, the only way their relationship is going to improve is if John can work up the courage to honestly confront Matt about the current state of their relationship at work. He should also be open to receiving feedback about how his own responses to Matt’s abruptness have negatively affected Matt. Owning his failure takes courage.
Left unaddressed, John and Matt’s relationship will continue to deteriorate until one day it could boil over and result in a fight, potentially damaging their relationship permanently, as well as that of the rest of the team. The only way to prevent this from happening is by having the courage to engage in open, honest dialogue.
Open dialogue does not include keeping track of everything the other person has ever said or done and unloading on them. Keep in mind the end goal is to seek reconciliation to heal the relationship—not exact revenge.
Start by asking them for a time where you can chat privately. Approach them with the aim of mending what is wrong, and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable first. Don’t wait for the other person to open up. By being vulnerable first and owning your part of the failed relationship, a true, courageous relationship can develop.
Courageous relationships matter because they allow you to be honest with each other—especially about the hard stuff. You owe it to your friends, family, coworkers, and yourself to do this. Power dynamics shift when we hold back the truth, and that’s when anger and resentment set in and take over from healthy and honest dialogue.
If you’re having difficulty with a relationship, have the courage to approach the other person with humility and vulnerability. Doing so can lead to some pretty incredible results.