If you work on a team it’s inevitable that at some point you will disappoint, frustrate or anger a colleague. You will fail to keep a promise. You will take an action or make a decision that negatively impacts others. You will react during stressful moments in ways you later regret.
In these moments repairing the relationship must be done with skill and consciousness. By consciousness, I mean self-awareness about your motives, control over your ego, and clarity about what you hope to achieve through the conversation. Without the right mindset, your efforts to make amends will come off as superficial at best and manipulative at worst.
Before launching into the work of repair, answer these questions:
*Do you understand that your impact may have been very different from your intent? Often people conflate these and defend themselves based on their intention rather than their impact — the consequences of their actions. Be prepared to say: “I intended X but clearly I had Y impact on you and for that I am sorry.”
*Are you willing to give up being right about the past in order to build a partnership for the future? We humans have a strong drive to find fault and to win. The key here is to loosen your grip on your stories and justifications about the past and focus on what you want to create in a relationship moving forward.
*Are you prepared to own your contribution to the mess? Repair involves more than saying “sorry.” It means taking responsibility for your actions and making sincere commitments to do things differently moving forward.
If you can answer these three questions with a sincere “yes,” you are ready to move forward. In Part 2 of this blog series on relationship repair, I will describe how to deliver a meaningful apology.
What other questions would be helpful to ask yourself before approaching another person to repair the relationship?