Conflicts of Interest Blog by Vivian Scott
Happy New Year! Yes, it’s that time of year when we collectively pledge to get thinner, richer, and more organized. How about this year we forego some of the usual resolutions and instead focus on resolving some of those lingering issues we have with others? If you’re ready to address the ice between you and another person, here are a few ideas from previous blogs to get you started.
Be ready to be turned down: You’re resolving to get things right but that doesn’t mean that the other person is going to want to make nice. Choose language carefully so you can craft a message that fully expresses your desire for the two of you to discuss what’s happened and your willingness to find a solution that works for both of you. Saying, “I think we should put this behind us” may be what you’re feeling but the other person could interpret that to mean, “Your feelings are unimportant in this and I’ve made a decision to ignore them.” Not good. If you get turned down, be sure to let the other person know that you’re leaving the door open for a conversation when she’s ready.
Be ready to admit your part: Approaching the other person with an admission of what you could have handled better is a great way to deflate a stand-off and create the space for him to do the same. He will likely be wary of your intentions so make sure you use “I” statements such as, “I felt hurt about the things that were told to Susan” rather than, “You really messed things up when you told Susan those things.” Be genuine and leave the excuses (you may call them explanations) for later. Offer a full apology that includes a commitment that you won’t repeat your actions.
Be open to considering the other person’s perspective: You likely have a lot of points you’d like to make. Perhaps you’ve even jotted down a few notes or created a list of items you’d like to talk about. Hold that thought. Start any conversation with a sincere invitation for the other person to tell you, from her perspective, what happened and how it impacted her. When she’s talking, consider what she’s sharing (not just listening for an opening so you can jump in) and let her talk as long as she’d like before you ask questions or explore further.
Be clear about what you’d like to see happen: So, now what? If you don’t have a master plan to hold hands and walk off into the sunset, at a minimum you might suggest that the two of you can be cordial or have the capacity to be in the same room without making others uncomfortable. Do a little thinking beforehand about what “putting it behind you” looks like to you and ask if the other person is willing to hear your description. You may want to get back to being friends but it’s okay to be open to something less than that until trust is rebuilt. Remember, you’ve had time to consider the full conversation so let the other person get up to speed and don’t try to rush things.