After writing the post, Can You Be Too Helpful? last week, I got a ton of email responses and blog comments from folks with great insights. One of those folks was John Lemmon, who had some great insight. I asked if he might put it together into a guest post, and Voila!
Everything in this world is based on relationships, and relationships are built on trust. After all, how many people do you want a relationship if there was no trust?
Relationships can survive most things, but not the loss of the foundation of trust. When someone undermines a relationship, trust is the first thing that goes out the window. Would you trust someone who talks behind your back, undermines your position or takes advantage of you? Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, probably not.
But what if you are the one undermining the relationship?
What if you inadvertently said or did something to offend someone you respect?
Is there anything you can or should do to bring the relationship back on track?
Consider these points:
- The best way to maintain a relationship is not to screw it up in the first place! How many times has it been said, “If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it behind their back!” Good advice;) If you email, text, tweet or blog it, it’s out there forever…and one day it may come back and bite you!
- If something REALLY has to be said to someone you respect, then say it to them. Don’t talk about them behind their back or they will think you are gossiping — and no one trusts a gossip. But if you go to the person saying, “Hey, I really respect you but lately I have noticed something and we need to talk…”, or, “Are you aware that what you are doing is damaging your brand…” and so on. Go to the person, and talk directly to them.
- But what if you have already said, written, blogged, tweeted the words and can’t take them back? Can you salvage the relationship? Yes, but you need to do the hard yards if you really want to hold onto the relationship.
There are three steps to salvaging a relationship that you have screwed up, and they must be done sooner rather than later. The longer you leave it the worse it will get and the faster trust will deteriorate.
Done quickly and properly, the relationship will survive and maybe even get stronger.
So… DO IT NOW!
As soon as you know there is an issue, work to resolve it immediately and follow these Three “R’s” to restore the relationship.
First, RECOGNIZE that you screwed up. Accept the blame when you are in the wrong. Go to the person and tell them, “I screwed up.” They may rant and rave, and may be justified doing so, but will soon see you are trying to fix things. (Remember when Claire accidentally sent an email she shouldn’t have? This is what she did. Immediately.)
Then REPENT. Offer your apology for the wrong you did…and mean it. A hollow apology won’t work. Words without feeling are empty and will not cut it.
Finally, make RESTITUTION. You need to take action to rectify the situation. Words are not enough. Tell them how you plan to rectify the wrong, what you will say, what you will do to restore their trust in you. Better yet, ask them what they would like you to do…and then DO IT. If the relationship is important to you, come to them on THEIR terms, after all, they are the ones offended.
Once it is done and the relationship is restored, then you need to move on. Don’t dwell on the past. Move forward and carry the relationship forward so that they and the rest of the world can see it was just a bump in the road.
Relationships take work. And because people are emotional creatures they can easily be screwed up. But very few screw-ups cannot be resolved if you are prepared and willing to put the effort in. You’ve just got to have the will.
Are you willing to put the work in? Have you screwed up a relationship lately that you need to fix? What can you do? Or have you screwed one up in the past that you were able to put right? How did you do it?
After forty years working in various senior management roles, and becoming a qualified accountant, a Six Sigma black belt, a project manager and many other things, John Lemmon found that process is important, but people count more. His purpose now is to give back what has been given to him and to pay forward what he has learned. John writes a Christian Bible study blog at www.freegiftfromgod.com/blog/, which contains his thoughts and opinions as he studies the New Testament.