Can You Repair a Damaged Relationship?

I was going to do a post on how to repair a damaged relationship, but then I got to thinking, “To say that would be to presuppose that a damaged relationship can be repaired.” And can a damaged relationship actually be repaired?

I suppose we need to make a distinction between personal and business relationships before we get into this, so let’s start off by saying that we’re only talking about business relationships. And, I suppose that we need to determine how damaged relationships happen in the first place.

In my estimation, most relationships get damaged as a result of miscommunication in some way. It’s likely your fault, or the other party’s, or both. Someone says or does something they shouldn’t have or didn’t mean to. Or, someone takes something that’s said or done to them, the wrong way.

Is this an oversimplification? I don’t think so. Communication only occurs when there is a sender of a message and a receiver of a message. The message has to be sent and received for communication to occur. But if it’s sent or received the wrong way (or not as intended) then there is the possibility for offense to occur and a relationship to be damaged. And let’s face it, this stuff happens all the time.

So, can they be repaired?

That’s actually a more complicated question then I first thought. It’s complicated question because it requires at least one of the party’s to be emotionally intelligent enough to identify that there may have been a miscommunication. And as simple as that sounds, it’s actually quite difficult. Why, because of emotion, that’s why.

When a relationship gets damaged, someone usually gets hurt or angry or sad. We react. Or, should I say, our emotions react. And if we’re not aware of ourselves and our emotions in the moment, they take hold of our responses. Some people are emotionally intelligent enough to sit back and think, “Wait, why am I feeling this way? What is really going on here.” If we can be like those people and somehow observe our own emotional responses to certain situations it allows us the luxury of starting to understand what is really going on and whether we should be offended or hurt at all. The key is to manage our emotions and not let them manage us. This is easier said than done, unfortunately, and it does take conscious and deliberate effort to be present and aware. Once we can do that, we can then move on to the process of trying to repair the relationship by going back to the other party and trying to understand whether there may have been a miscommunication.

So, can you repair a damaged relationship? Yes, but (and you knew that was coming, I’m sure) it requires you to practice a deeper level of emotional intelligence and it will likely require you to get over a certain amount of pride and take the first step in understanding whether there was a miscommunication and then trying to take steps to repair the damaged relationship.

But what’s this got to do with negotiation? Getting good at negotiation requires you to be able to manage your emotions and the emotions of others. And many negotiations often walk the a fine line of damaging the relationship and building a negotiation. Let’s face it, sometimes you have to. And sometimes the negotiation takes a step too far to the left at the end and the relationship gets damaged. It happens. And when it happens, will you be emotionally intelligent enough to address it?