"How do you repair a business relationship that has gotten off to a bad start, or has been damaged?"
The question had come to me in an email from a reader of this blog and I did my best to share some observations and advice.
Over the years I have seen in my analytic reports that several people stumble upon my blog with a search on a related topic to repairing a damaged relationship. As humans are prone to make mistakes, this topic can be one of concern.... and clearly one that comes up often.
I too have had experiences with bruised feelings and broken connections. Sometimes these are a result of my stumbles (I am happy to admit if I screw up), and other situations have been because of the other person's actions. Most of the time it is likely a two way street and a result of a breakdown in communication.
Although I try to lead by example in my interactions with people, I am always reminded that whenever you have interactions with other human beings... the other people have their own point of view, opinions, and their own "stuff". We can never fully know the "back-story" of the other people, and that is why it is best to give people the benefit of the doubt and be slow to anger and fast to forgive.
Forgiveness is tough for those who think the world is out to get them or whose first reaction is "what's in it for me". Those who think that people want to take advantage of them are more likely to hold grudges and want to punish others.
I had a situation this week with a person I only know online. I failed to follow up with them and he let me know he was angry, and asked me to never contact him again. I genuinely felt bad, and through an exchange of emails he offered the chance to start over. I had pegged him as one who lead with collaboration, and I was pleased to find his quick path to forgiveness. Now the burden is on me to advance the relationship so that we can really "know" each other (as online links do not give enough foundation to carry one over a stumbling block), and I must be careful not to drop the ball again anytime soon (all people will drop the ball from time to time, it is just not doing it again too soon!). If you find forgiveness, you must cherish it, as it is a gift that is not often given!
I am happy about the online dis-connect with this gentleman (well, I am not "happy", but for me it has worked out okay), as it ties directly into my efforts to be "better" in 2012. By facing my own shortcomings and mistakes this year I am learning (maybe growing?). We live in a busy world where many of us cannot keep up with everything. This wont change, as I think it will just get crazier over the next few years. Being aware of the fall out that can occur is paramount to not making the same mistakes over and over again.
This is why friendships matter in business relationships. If you really care about someone you will be more prone to want to fix a situation before it gets out of hand. When we only know someone via a social media site there is little on which to hold a mutual understanding. Pride gets in the way and then there is little we can do to get back to a mutually beneficial relationship.
When communication breaks down then their is a vacuum of assumptions that fill the void. The key to avoiding conflict is better communication. If the relationships is hurt, then it can often take a willingness on both sides to get to a resolution. If one person is too angry or otherwise hurt, then there is little that can be done to finding a place to restart, rebuild, or reconnect.
Have A Great Day.