Putting the Band Back Together

As I’ve suggested quite often, “one necessity for increasing your productivity and success is the ability to work well with people. Your performance often depends on their performance in more ways than I care to count.” You can learn more details here and here on specific ways I’ve suggested to keep your relationships strong.

But in the meantime I’ve got a news flash for you: people mess up, and interpersonal conflicts are almost inevitable. That’s why we so often see bands break up.

As a result, an important skill in maintaining productivity and success in both your work and your life involves relationship repair after conflict.

To improve your ability to “put the band back together” after a break-up, follow these useful suggestions:

Don’t Wait for the Break-Up

If you wait to make “repairs” until after the break-up happens, your odds of success fall much, much lower. The best time to make “repairs” to your interpersonal relationships is while they’re still going strong: before negative feelings emerge to cloud judgment and impede communications.

One reason taking steps to strengthen your relationships while they’re still in good shape is that this strategy helps people store up positive feelings about each other. This reservoir of connectedness brings at least two important benefits:

  1. It raises the threshold for breaking up, enabling the relationship to endure some of the lesser difficulties that might otherwise cause a rift.
  2. It greases the skids for relationship repairs and reconciliation after a break-up, making a lasting “reunion” easier to achieve.

Of course, prior to a break-up, these steps technically can’t be termed “repairs.” But they nevertheless refresh and strengthen the bonds facilitating cooperation, tolerance for mistakes, and well-intentioned efforts to help each other complete desired tasks, projects, and goals.

Stay Open

While this discussion is aimed at helping your efforts to repair damaged relationships, it’s important you stay open to other people’s overtures of reconciliation, too. Other people may feel as bad as you – or even worse – about the break-up, but they may not have the knowledge or skills to effect a full rapprochement.

That’s why you’ll benefit from opening your ears to the words and your heart to the feelings other people are trying to communicate, as soon as you can after the break-up.

Opening up is sometimes difficult because a relationship rift can create deeply hurt feelings and trigger psychological defense mechanisms that close you off from an early reconciliation. You may feel unwilling to compromise, admit your mistakes, apologize, or otherwise take steps aimed at putting the band back together.

As time goes by, however, people generally become more willing to forgive and forget. Unfortunately, by then they’ve suffered all those hours, days, weeks, months, or years without the benefits of that previously strong, important, and satisfying relationship.

Of course, it may be necessary to wait a while for raw wounds from the break-up to begin healing. But just as you should make repairs before there’s ever a break-up, you should try healing a relationship rift as early and often as you can.

Stay Positive

An often-overlooked impediment to relationship repair is this: following a break-up, those initial feelings of deep pain, betrayal, and abandonment often lurk and take root in the dark recesses of your subconscious mind. From there, they can easily creep out to undercut your conscious efforts at putting the band back together.

Lots of us have experienced a sudden break-up, or the threat of one, and have managed to choke out a quick: “I’m sorry.” But that’s not enough, if your underlying feelings – and accompanying body language – add the disclaimer: “but mostly it was your fault.”

Watch for such possible self-sabotage, and try to stay as positive as you can.

(Note: In the context of break-ups, one important element of today’s widespread 12 Step programs is often relevant: Step 9 – making amends for wrongs we’ve done to others. A key piece of advice in this Step is to stay focused on what we’ve done wrong, and avoid any mention of wrongs the other person did to us.)

Putting the band back together involves restoring the good feelings that kept the relationship going before the break-up. Clearly, rehashing how others harmed you is not going to facilitate reconciliation.

If others want to apologize for what they did wrong, that’s great. Be ready to forgive and forget. But your efforts to patch things up should focus entirely on your conduct, and how you’ll behave better in the future.

Go for “Hunky Dory

A valuable piece of advice I received when I was learning to be a consultant was this: to get hired as a consultant, start providing services as though you’ve already won the contract.

I feel the same advice can apply to restoring the sense of unity that held sway before the break-up: start behaving as a positive band-mate again, and contribute to the relationship all the positive benefits other people previously appreciated.

Exhibiting optimistic expectations of putting the band back together gives you the best chance of restoring the same positive dynamic that once made the relationship such an important element of your productivity and success.

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