Building Bridges

My friends Mike and Julie Signorelli coined a statement: “Build a bridge in relationships strong enough to bear the weight of truth.”

What does this mean?

Basically it means that in order to have healthy relationships that are based in truth, where we can have crucial conversations, you have to invest in relationships to build the capacity to hold up the weight of facing difficult challenges in that process.

There is a statement as well that has been used: “The truth shall set you free but first it will make you miserable.” This indicates that there are going to be alot of unpleasant truths that I may have to face in relationships, like selfishness, ego, taking responsibility, things I may be doing that are hurtful, etc. We have to have enough strength in the relationship to make way for the confrontation of issues that when presented, can serve to strengthen the relationship.

When you’re tempted to build a wall or erect a fence, consider building a bridge. After all, it takes just as much work to build one as it does the other. Instead of shutting out or ignoring the challenging individual, look for ways to connect — because sometimes you have to work or live with someone… whether you want to or not. Here are some pointers to consider.

=> 1. Swallow your pride.

Stop giving the impression that you know it all. And stop acting like you’re always right. That only makes the other person pretend that he knows everything also. Instant wall.

On the other hand, if you say you may be wrong, the challenging individual is more likely to say she may be wrong. Instant bridge.

As psychologist Dr. Bev Smallwood says, put the focus on WHAT is right, not WHO is right. Look for truth in all points of view, and work together to find a solution that works for everyone.

But if you’re the kind of person who can’t let go of an argument until you’ve won, you’re in trouble. Even if you “win,” you haven’t. The “loser” will get you back sometime, somehow.

It takes a bit of humility to swallow your pride. It takes the opposite of what Ted Turner espouses. He said, “If only I had a little more humility, I’d be perfect.”

=> 2. Make the first move.

Quit keeping score as to who’s turn it is. So what if you called your friend three times before they called you back. So what if you e-mailed your friend four times before they answered. If you need to make contact with your friend keep on calling. If you want to maintain your relationship with a certain friend, keep on e-mailing. Their lack of response could be a sign of their disinterest, but more often than not it’s a sign of their poor time management skills.

If you don’t make the first move, there may not be a chance for a second move. And yes, yes, I know; it’s not fair… that you have to take more than your share of the initiation with people. It “should” be 50-50, but it never will be.

So face it. You can gripe about the way things “should” be, or you can deal with things the way they are. Personally, I prefer the latter approach. If I want to build a bridge to someone else, I’ll make the first move… and the second… and third… if I need to.

=> 3. Listen

It’s one of the best ways to build a bridge to someone else. And yet some people have never learned the art of listening.

The more you listen, the more you’ll know. You’ll know how to go about fixing the broken bridges in your life.”

=> 4. Look for something positive in every person you meet and in every idea you encounter.

I’m not saying that every person is pleasant at work, and I’m not saying every idea you hear is a good one. No. In fact, there is usually something wrong with every person and idea you come across.

But bridge builders don’t discount potentially positive ideas just because there’s an objectionable element involved. And bridge builders don’t ignore some possibly helpful people because of some negative quality in their lives.

Instead, wise people isolate or discard the erroneous element in an overall good idea and keep the rest. Smart people overlook the irritating factor in someone’s personality if there are other factors that make the relationship healthy enough to pursue.

You’ve got to be discriminating. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Use the tips here today, and you’ll be a carpenter who builds bridges to others.

BH/Adapted: Alan Zimmerman

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