Repair Conversations – How to recover from word wounds and misunderstandings in the workplace and at home

Whoever said “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” was mistaken!  Words can be hurtful and often times things unsaid can also do damage. In this time of high anxiety, with so many complicated situations at home, there is plenty of opportunity for misunderstandings and wounds inflicted by words.  Emotions are running high, and there seems to be a global cloud, low-lying and hard to see, but heavy upon us, of fear, anxiety, and gloom.

I ache for those who are navigating this crisis without a job or the means to weather this unpredictable situation.  I shudder to comprehend the added stress and pressure of financial insecurity while also being in isolation. I honor those deemed essential employees who are courageously still going to work to allow the world to still run, even if at a significantly slower pace.  And while many of us ought to be grateful for the opportunity to work from home, this still creates a new and challenging dynamic.  If you’re anything like me, you like choices and control, so the loss of choice and control is frustrating and hard to accept. Whether you’ve lost your job, are overworked and tired, or are able to work from home, none of us is likely functioning at our best.

When emotions run high, and we fail to have empathy with our co-workers, our spouse, our children, our neighbors, our friends, we fail to show up the way we’d like to and often say or do things that only make the situation worse.  In this time, these misunderstandings and wounds are going to happen, it is just a fact.  However, there is something we can learn to do to strengthen relationships rather than harm them – we can learn to embrace and have repair conversations.

What is a repair conversation?  It is pretty much exactly as it sounds, but goes a bit further than simply saying sorry to make peace.  Here are the steps to successfully have a repair conversation and ensure that the repair isn’t just a cheap bandaid that’s lost its stick, but rather one that truly aids in the recovery of the wound.

  1. Make space to cool down and reflect
  2. Take note of what you were feeling and your reaction. How did you feel physically and emotionally?
  3. Consider the trigger. What caused the reaction? Where did your mind go?
  4. Own your part. What was your story or understanding/misunderstanding that led to the trigger then reaction?
  5. How could you have reacted differently? How would you have liked to have responded?
  6. What insights would be helpful to share? What do you want for the relationship? What do you want for yourself?

Use these reflective questions and considerations to have an honest and open conversation.  Be authentic while taking into consideration how the other person will perceive your words and being careful to choose them wisely.  Be intentional, humble, and be willing to have these conversations again and again.

perry-grone-lbLgFFlADrY-unsplash (3)Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash