The smoldering ash is still hot to the touch.
Months ago, or maybe even years ago, you burned a bridge in business (or in life). You damaged a relationship by saying something harsh in the moment. Your anger got the best of you, and now you regret how everything played out.
What do you do to rebuild?
One of the things I've learned after getting out the matches myself a few times and torching a good relationship in a moment of frustration is that you can build it back. People are amazingly forgiving, especially if you take all of the right steps.
Here are a few ideas to seek restoration.
1. Don't just apologize or explain--make amends
The one thing I've learned as someone who has burned bridges before is that you can't just say you're sorry or explain why you acted like that. You can't offer an olive branch only. Part of building back the relationship involves the building process -- actions and not just words. One thing you might try is offering to do work for free. If you burned the bridge with a customer, offer a free product. If you burned the bridge with a boss, offer to treat him or her to lunch. Restoration is not just a matter of words, it often involves a demonstration of good will.
2. Be ready to be specific about your mistakes
There will come a time when you start restoring a broken relationship. Guess what? It's best to stick to your own mistakes. How can you really understand fully what the other party did wrong? How can you understand their motivations or reasoning? Maybe they had their moments, too. The goal is to restore, and for that you have to be ready to get specific about your weaknesses. Ironically, that shows you have confidence in the abilities you do have. Only people who admit mistakes once in awhile have the confidence to believe they can add value in other ways.
3. Keep the finger-pointing to a minimum
A pastor from many years ago used to tell me to avoid finger pointing. You might point one finger at a colleague or a boss, but there are always three fingers pointing back at you. If you're goal is to restore a relationship, why start jabbing fingers in their direction? Try saying things like: "Hey, I know I was rude about that project, and I made some big mistakes. I've learned a few things about how to control my temper these days, would you be willing to give me another shot?"
4. Don't dwell on the problems
Those of us who are trying to become better at restoring broken relationships have learned this one the hard way. The more you dwell on the problem--either in discussions or in your own thinking--the worse it can get. Rebuild quickly. Say what needs to be said, then let it go. Don't ever let the brokenness fester.
5. At least try
One of the things I've learned recently is that you have to at least try to restore. That seems to be the problem with some broken relationships--people just give up and stop trying. They think the relationship is hopeless and lost. It isn't. It might be a total shot in the dark, but maybe you'll be surprised at the results.
You know, this idea of restoring a relationship--in the end, it is good for you. You become a better person when you at least attempt to rebuild. You let go of bitterness and anger. You start seeing the truth. You understand that life is all about restoration. Yet, it is also important to enter into this process with the understanding that it might not work. You can only rebuild halfway. The other person needs to cooperate.
Here's an extra challenge: Will you try rebuilding a bridge? Reach out to a colleague or your boss or even a spouse right now and follow these tips. Admit your mistakes. Offer something as a genuine gesture of good will. Let me know how it goes.