Have you ever felt really hurt by someone’s words? Or angry about their behavior?
When you feel angry or hurt, what do you see when you look at the “other” person? Do you only see the hurt or anger? Do you see an enemy?
What if the “enemy” used to be a close friend or family member? What if you have never ever met the person before in your life? Does that matter? What do you do about restoring relationships?
When I discuss conflict resolution, people generally tell me one of two things, 1) it is easier to show empathy and compassion for close friends and family, or 2) I offer strangers more understanding.
What is behind having more compassion and understanding for one group of people more than another? It generally falls into expectations. People may expect more from family or friends and less from strangers or vice versa. In my experience, people sometimes show different levels of compassion at work than at home, or with clients than colleagues.
When I expect someone to behave a certain way, and the person does not, it may certainly be disappointing. What happens in that moment of disappointment tends to strengthen or weaken the relationship.
When people share feelings and needs, listen and empathize, and take action to make amends, relationships may be restored. Sometimes, relationships grow even stronger.
Failure to do so results in broken relationships temporarily or permanently.
In some cultures, restorative practices are the norm. In recent decades, more and more communities offer restorative justice programs or circles to hold people accountable. The opportunity for the offender to see the impact on the victim with empathy restores the relationship.
This requires no longer seeing someone as the enemy.
What does restoring relationships mean to you?