Relationships breakdown when a value has been violated.

I had a friend whom I had known from the age of 14, and in fact, he was almost like my brother.

Against my better judgment, and drinking on an empty stomach, I opened my mouth before engaging my brain and said some things that hurt and challenged the stability of our relationship.

I must admit that afterwards, it troubled me when I realised my comments had gone too far.

However, despite his pain, he called a week later and said, “I think we need to talk.” That request showed great courage and humility. I’m not sure I could have done that so soon.

This situation led me to think about how to handle disagreements that occur in a team, relationship or other work-based relationships. Many facets make up a successful relationship, and this could be in marriage, business relationship or a team.

Shared values are one of them, such as healthy regard and respect for each other’s opinion, recognising and praising the strengths and weaknesses of the team and the ability to compromise and work together.

Teams work well when, as a whole, values are honoured, so when disagreements occur, it’s those values that may form the thread that enables you to sew the relationship back together.

In the situation with my friend, we shared many values, the principal one being healthy respect and regard for each other.

Before meeting him, I set an intention to listen to his viewpoints without defending or justifying my behaviour, and even though it was difficult and uncomfortable, I listened.

If you are the one that is hurting maybe through your pain, you may have to be the one who calls your manager/family or the team together to have the meeting and clear the air. This is often easier said than done.

My friend said he looked back on the events of the evening and our relationship over the years and had to ask himself, is this typical? It wasn’t.

Here are some learnings I would like to share with you:
1. Be careful whose opinion you solicit about how to resolve conflict. Sometimes the advice you seek can either inflame or defuse the situation. Seek the views of others that you trust and know to be objective, fair and will call you out if you are in the wrong.

2. If you value the relationship – listen without defence. This is hard, but sometimes all we want is to be listened to and feel understood. When you are defending yourself, the person does not feel honoured or listened to.

3. Apologise. We all make mistakes and speak out of turn. Grievances grow because someone will not apologise or accept responsibility for the part they played. This shows humility.

As a leader of a team/department or head of your family, to be seen to apologise will indicate you can be wrong. To your children, it will instil respect and admiration, and to your team, it will gain their support.

4. Be honest about how you saw the situation, what you felt, saw and need. Even though you played a part in this, you have needs also, and this may be a good time to ask for what you would want to help to heal the relationship. They may not be in the best place to hear you – so chose when you ask for this.

5. Do not drink alcohol before your meeting or discussion.

6. Sometimes, it takes time for disagreements to heal. Keep talking. It may also be that things do not end amicably and to move forward, you may have let go and move on.

As Humphrey Bogart (Rick Blaine) in the movie Casablanca, said to Louis, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Sadly, for me … it was the end.

Until we meet.