“Be careful when burning bridges. You’ll be surprised how many times you have to cross the same river.” – Unknown

There are times in life when our emotions get the best of us. We say things we don’t mean, we take a stand that really isn’t important, and we leave a relationship unattended all because we can’t figure out how to approach a challenging situation.

Burning a bridge might be necessary sometimes, but in most cases, it can seriously impact our life by closing doors and limiting certain opportunities.

Whether it’s a friend, a family member or even an acquaintance, life is too short, and we need all the friends we can get. It is rarely a good idea to cut someone off forever.

Burning bridges doesn’t accomplish much. Everyone involved is damaged, and no one leaves the situation unscathed. In the end, what does burning a bridge accomplish? Nothing at all. Instead, take the energy spent trying to burn the bridge and try repairing it instead.

Here are five ways to repair burned bridges.

1 – Make The First Move

The hardest part of repairing a damaged relationship is making the first move. Neither person wants to be the first, and that’s because it is scary being vulnerable by reaching out and beginning the healing.

Be aware that it might take more than making eye contact or smiling in their direction. Take the time to arrange a meeting and make your intentions clear. Many times, making the first move can be seen as an apology and be okay with that.

No one is blameless in a damaged relationship. Be intent on making amends and not determining fault. We must recognize our part in it and be willing to do what it takes. Making that intent known will go a long way to opening the lines of communication.

2 – Seek Forgiveness

Forgiveness must happen on both sides to move forward through a difficult situation. Ask forgiveness and grant it, recognizing both parties played a role.

It is important to realize that forgiveness looks different for everyone. The goal is to walk away with no hard feelings and the commitment to keep the situation in the past.

It is important to be honest, not only about the responsibility of each person to the situation but as to what the expectations are going forward. Use bridge repairing as a time to take the lessons learned and strengthen your relationship moving forward.

3 – Communicate Openly and Honestly

The bridge can only be repaired if everyone involved agrees to communicate openly and honestly. There may be things that are difficult to say and to hear, but without the commitment to communicate, those things will continue to fester giving a false sense of hope.

A solid relationship is not built on lies or false hopes. Everyone deserves the truth, and when given in love, it will help bring the relationship to a new level and demonstrate a willingness to make it work.

4 – Listen to and Accept Feedback

Talking is only one-half of the communication plan. We must also be willing to listen and accept the other person’s perceptions of the situation. We base our understanding of what happened on our perceptions, but the other person may have a completely different view.

It is with this knowledge that listening and accepting feedback can repair the bridge. It’s important that we know how we feel and respect the feelings of the other person. When we open our hearts to allow the other person’s perceptions, we can move forward with respect and grace.

Listening and knowing you are heard is a critical piece of any conflict resolution, and no bridge can be rebuilt without it.

5 – Be Willing to Compromise

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” ~ John F. Kennedy

To repair a burned bridge, compromise is the best way to move forward through the conflict. It’s impossible to put the bridge back together if someone feels they are doing all the giving.

By the time the bridge is burned, there is usually more than one situation that contributed to it. Be willing to stand up for what is important and then be willing to compromise. Let the stuff that doesn’t matter go.

Go forward knowing routines may need to change, habits will be altered and new expectations will be set. Approach repairing the bridge with eyes wide open.

Final Thoughts on Your Efforts to Repair Burned Bridges

Know there is work to be done and the first step is being focused on making the relationship work. We must enter committed to repairing the hurt and putting our egos aside, knowing the relationship matters, and it’s worth the effort.

In what ways have you repaired burned bridges? What have you found to be the most effective tool in reaching a compromise and strengthening your relationships?