Don’t you just hate it when folks tell you: “now, now, it doesn’t matter what so and so did…you should never burn your bridges” or “oh it’s okay honey, it’s just a learning experience” (read that again in grandma’s voice for the full effect). I mean, it’s great advice but what on earth do you do you after you’ve messed up and burned even the ashes that were left of the bridge?
Please don’t be that person that just sits around and hopes you never cross paths with the other person again. Between Facebook and Twitter alone, the person you just pissed off knows somebody that knows somebody that has a cousin that can ruin your professional and personal life with a click of a button. For those that are reading this and thinking to themselves, “well my future is not in the hands of any human being”, this entire post is dedicated to you…
Even the best people slip up and do / say things that they don’t really mean. I don’t think it’s fair to allow these good people wallow in guilt for being human; so in as few words as possible, here’s the quick and dirty stuff you probably don’t want to hear from me right now.
3 Critical Things to Do Once Poop Hits the Fan
It doesn’t matter “who started it”; just say you’re sorry. I remember calling the customer service department of an online travel agency one time and the guy I was talking to asked me to fly out to Maryland ($500 airfare + 5 hours travel time) to collect a $200 refund. To cut a long story short, let’s just say that he agreed to mail my money to my house and I wound up calling him back a few minutes later to apologize for my transgressions. He was surprised that I took the effort to call back and we instantly became friends. Did I like calling back to say sorry? No. will I do the same thing again? absolutely not! But that’s only because I now know to be nice to every airline sales rep I speak to. In my case, I would probably never cross paths with that customer service rep again but the stakes are obviously higher when the other person is your boss, co-worker, or close friend. So once you realize you’ve burned a bridge, be a man (or woman) and apologize once. (trust me, there’s a very good reason for doing it only 1 time).
Avoid “that Guy” (or Gal)
The good thing about burning bridges is that it gives you solid proof of the kinds of things that get to you. The bad thing is, some people like to test their limits. They think that if they avoid situations that tick them off, they are somehow being weak. Rubbish! You already know “that guy” or “that girl” or “that place” that just makes you go bonkers. If you don’t like hearing people say “I understand your frustration, but I can’t help you”, then don’t call customer service…email them instead. If your co-worker’s mismatched socks piss you off, don’t sit near him/her at the annual dinner…but be polite about it. Once you’ve made the mistake of burning a bridge, identify these kinds of people or situations and avoid their physical presence.
Don’t Waste Your Time
Don’t waste time and energy rehashing the entire scene in your mind. Once words are spoken, they can never be taken back and once time is wasted thinking about them, the time can never be regained. Focus your energy on being proactive and avoiding a reoccurrence, but don’t fall into the trap of rehashing the scenario and mentally re-engineering your words so that you said “go to Havana” instead of what you really said. Not only is that practice unproductive, but it also keeps you from seeing the lessons to be learned from the experience. Give yourself as much time as you need to get over whatever it is you’ve said or done, and move on.
I’m sure you were feeling all warm and fuzzy on the inside reading this post because it’s the truth that never seems to be told; but now it’s time to get serious. Who have you pissed off? How many valuable relationships in your life are decaying because of a burned bridge? If these relationships are worth repairing, you have everything you need to make it right. If they are relationships that were harmful to you, then kudos to you for getting rid of that piece of excess luggage. Until next time, stay motivated!