I once knew two seventy-year- old ladies who got into an argument in the grocery store over Vidalia onions—were they worth the extra cost or not?—and then refused to speak to each other for years. (No kidding.) Luckily, they patched things up before they hit their eighties! I used to laugh when I thought about their silly argument, but then one day I asked myself: How many of my relationships have suffered because I was holding a grudge and wasn’t willing to mend fences? And how much negative energy was I pulling into my life by refusing to heal those relationships?
That’s when I decided to take action. I knew I’d be happier if I healed my broken relationships, so I did. It took some courage, but I’m telling you: It made a big difference in my life. Even when I had good reason to hold a grudge because someone had hurt me badly, I discovered that patching things up freed me from a ton of misery. That’s why I’m encouraging you to mend your own fences during my “Create Happy” Month. Here are some tips for doing it.
First, identify the relationships in your life that are damaged. In each case, ask yourself: Do I truly want this person in my life? If the answer is yes, then the breach is making you unhappy and you need to repair it. But if not—if you don’t like the person, or worse yet, the relationship is toxic—then it’s probably smarter to walk away. If you decide that a broken bond needs repairing, then it’s time for you to make the first move by contacting the person. Here’s my advice:
- Start by admitting your role in the situation. Offer an apology for being wrong if you were at fault—or for not handling the situation well, if you feel that the other person was wrong. Don’t try to rehash the argument and prove that you were right, or you’re likely to make things worse.
- Say “I’ve missed you”—and explain why. For instance, tell the person, “I’ve missed your sense of humor and the way you always make me feel better when I’m down.” Make it clear that the person is very important to you.
- Let the person vent. If you approach the person positively and kindly, and you get an angry response—“Yes, you really hurt me, and I’m still upset”—don’t get defensive. Even if it’s painful, let the person air his or her negative feelings.
- Be patient. Sometimes, you can mend a broken relationship quickly. Most of the time, however, it takes time and work—so keep your expectations realistic.
- Write a letter. If the rift between you and the other person is huge, it might be easier to put your feelings on paper rather than trying to express them in person. This will allow you to think carefully about what you want to say.
I can’t guarantee that all of your efforts to mend fences will be successful. But you know what? Even if the other person wants to keep holding a grudge, you can let go of your own negative energy. And most of the time, I’m betting there will be some happy tears, some hugs, and a lot of relief on both sides. So give it a try—because every time you mend a fence, you “create happy” for everyone involved.
Keep Thinking Big & Living Bold!