It takes courage to reach out and mend a broken relationship. Those with a high level of resiliency demonstrate exceptional courage to do so.
As the American author and poet, Maya Angelou wrote:
Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”
It Takes Courage to Mend a Broken Relationship
Here is an example of demonstrating the courage to make amends:
One of our adult children was visiting Wham! I saw shedding raging tears. I said something that triggered emotional pain. It took me by surprise; it always does. Perhaps it is not worth marking on the calendar but it is worth paying attention, being present and later reflecting on the lesson learned.
Apparently, when this adult child was around eight years old, I insisted that a HATED, definitely HATED t-shirt be worn to school. The memory still holds pain. It was never resolved.
We are inevitably going to disappoint our loved ones and periodically they are going to feel hurt. We make mistakes and hopefully we learn and grow.
At the same time, we are not mind readers, so we need those close to us to let us know when we have stepped on their hearts. That will only happen if we are trustworthy; when we demonstrate that we can be informed of our transgressions, regardless of how new or old.
This time around, I took a breath and really listened. My bossiness and insensitivities were recounted in detail. I breathed and nodded. I felt heavy inside. But I came out of the blast of emotional fury far less diminished than if I had been confronted years ago. I now had the wisdom to stand still and be there for my child, really be there, while noticing my feelings but not making them the main players. I apologized. All of that took courage. The result was worth it; an amended relationship!
If ever you are the recipient of your child’s, spouse’s, friend’s or close co-worker’s wrath, here are the six steps I used to help bring calm to our dear adult child.
The Six Step Process:
- Courage: It takes courage to sit, take it on the chin and really listen without defending or wilting into your own sniffles, or puffing up into defense mode, or taking flight out the door. Tell yourself you are demonstrating the virtue of courage in listening to the moments you let that person down. Also, tell yourself that the teary-eyed soul in front of you is demonstrating courage in trusting you to listen without re-wounding.
- Be Present: Sit if at all possible. Plan on an hour to an hour and a half, more if the issue is complicated. Breathe down to your toes to calm yourself. Stay particularly focused on your breathing when you hear trigger words such as you never and you always. Example: “You always favor Joey over me.”
- Listen: We all long to be seen, heard and acknowledged. One of the worst human hurts is to have our feelings invalidated. No matter how much you want to argue and defend, “I did my best” or “How can you say this when I’ve done so much for you?” or “You have the story wrong,” it is far better to acknowledge the feelings and, when possible, your part in triggering them.
- Touch: Reach out with a comforting touch only when your wailing loved one indicates it is welcome. Often times our touch has signaled a message to stop feeling a certain emotion; a quick way to indicate I want you to turn off the tears. Let the tears flow. They have healthy, healing and releasing powers.
- Apologize: Acknowledge what you did. Show that you understand how it was inappropriate, controlling, hurtful or distressful. Example: “Yes, I bought that dumb t-shirt and put it on you. I am sorry I did not honor how much you did not like it. I regret forcing you.” Then add what you will do moving forward as in “I see how you make wise decision. For now on, I commit to merely supporting you.” Note: For significantly deep hurt, look at delivering by spoken word or letter a research-based apology.
- Closure: The conversation is over when both of you can say, “I am OK and I am glad you are OK. I love you.” For more casual or workplace relationships replace “I love you” with something like, “I am glad we resolved this with one another.”
Please consider using these points with anyone who legitimately and trustingly shares a hurt that involves you and your actions. Remember, when you reach out to mend a broken relationship, you are demonstrating a high virtue of courage in doing so.
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.