How to Repair in a Relationship

Coaching and Leading Others

In the complex tapestry of human and professional relationships, conflicts and ruptures are inevitable. The key to fostering growth, resilience, and lasting connection lies in the art of repair. Yet, most people don’t know how to repair a relationship once it has been broken. It is the willingness to repair these fractures that ultimately determines the strength and success of the relationships involved.

Relationship repair is a technical skill that is possible to learn. First you have to establish some ground rules.

  1. Both parties must not dictate their version of the “facts”
  2. Both parties must assume each other’s reality has validity
  3. Both parties must understand each other’s perception of the situation

Then you can follow these easy 5 steps to move from a rupture in the relationship to creating the capacity to restore communication and trust. 

Step 1: Describe How You Feel

Take turns sharing how you felt about the incident.  Don’t hold anything back, but Don’t say why you felt that way (yet) and When listening, avoid commenting on your partner’s feelings

Step 2: Share Your Reality

Describe your reality of the situation. Then have your partner share theirs and don’t interrupt. Summarize and validate shared understanding of each other’s reality.  DO NOT move forward until both parties feel their understanding is validated.

Step 3: Share Your Triggers

Triggers are memories or experiences that might’ve escalated the situation. Take turns and have each person do the following: 

  1. Share triggers involved in the incident
  2. Explain why those memories are triggers
  3. Understand why the other side is triggered by those memories

Step 4: Accept Responsibility

  1. Acknowledge your contribution to the situation
  2. Share how you set yourself up for the conflict
  3. Identify what you regret and apologize if necessary

Step 5: Build A Plan

Take turns sharing one thing your partner can do to make the discussion better in the future. When you are sharing, remain calm and when you are listening, be agreeable and understanding. Then, identify what each of you needs to put this behind you and move on. 

Repairing business relationships is not simply about resolving conflicts; it is also an opportunity for growth and learning. Repair entails a commitment to change and evolution.  Renowned psychotherapist Esther Perel asserts  "repair is not just about going back to how things were, but rather creating a path towards growth and improvement."  It is through repair that individuals can foster a supportive and productive environment, enabling individuals and teams to thrive and become more resilient, collaborative, and successful in their relationships.

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