Whenever two people are engaged in a relationship where they care about each other or care about the same thing, it is inevitable that sooner or later, cross words will erupt.
From there, it’s a skip to harsh words and a jump to hurtful words, and before you know it, words have been said that aren’t really meant and can never be unsaid.
Horrible, hateful, mean words fueled not by the moment or the failings of the other person, but by our own past, reignited by the present. Words that lash the soul and break the heart.
We’ve all been there.
Thanks to all the attention on bullying, we’ve come to acknowledge what anyone who has ever bullied, or been bullied, already knew: words leave lasting marks that hurt much more than any broken bone.
Repairing the Hurt Caused by Our Words
But, you don’t have to be a bully or encounter a bully in order to experience words that leave lasting marks. When we’ve damaged a relationship in our personal or professional life with hurtful words, we need to go beyond a simple apology if we are to restore the relationship and strengthen it.
We all know that we must apologize as soon as possible after our argument. We do it because we respect the other person and we choose to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. We hope our apology will soothe the pain and repair the damage we’ve caused. Yet, we sense the apology is not enough, we know we must rebuild the relationship.
Words got us into this mess. Words can get us out just as well.
A rightly worded apology sets the stage for a new conversation that can begin to repair the damage to the relationship and set it back on course.
Finding the Right Words
The follow-up conversation can begin with an agreement that you both have the same goals of unconditional acceptance, respect and a desire to continue to work together to reach these goals. You may need to recognize and acknowledge that the two of you are more likely to disagree than to agree, but that your differences of opinion are not a barrier to your continued relationship. Finally, focus on what you can bring to the relationship, not on what you want to get from it because giving is the only way to build and maintain a real connection between you.
Our ability to communicate is one of our most important skills because it is through our words plus our actions that we develop and maintain relationships. Communicating well in the moment is not nearly as easy as giving a well-rehearsed presentation or dealing with common or anticipated events.
When we blow it by blowing up, we can begin to repair the damage first by giving a heartfelt apology for what we said and did. When we follow that first step with an honest conversation that focuses on working together to achieve a common goal and on what we ourselves can do, not what we expect the other person to do, our reward will be a stronger relationship.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: We all want to be known as kind and caring people. No matter what hurtful words we might blurt out in the heat of the moment, we can still be someone who strives to make others feel better about themselves and to have strong and lasting relationships.