Posted on May 9th, 2006

A common fallacy that people sometimes create is the mistake of "burning bridges." We’ve all been there before. The heat of an argument, a small confrontation or even a simple statement can suddenly kill a relationship without aforethought. The worst part being that we often burn the bridges to the ones we care for and/or love.

Whether it’s something you or someone else has intentionally or inadvertantly said or done, in a split second, the friendship or partnership bridge has been burnt forever. By the time you realize it, it’s too late to go back and undo what’s been done.

So how do we avoid burnt bridges? Below are a few tips on avoiding this destructive human behavior:

Communication skills. Often more times than naught, lack of tact or quick ill-thoughts can land us into hot water. Perhaps we didn’t quite comprehend what was being said, or maybe we didn’t read all the black & white - and by that time, we’ve jumped to a conclusion and we’ve gone and done "it" - we’ve burnt the bridge.

Education. It truly helps to educate yourself on the subject matter or conversation before making invalid assumptions based on a broad overview. Unless you’ve completely researched a topic, do not attempt to add your "two cents" worth. This will only make matters worse.

Attitude & Response. Okay, someone has said something or presented you with something that you don’t necessarily care to hear or see. Did it come directly from that person? Was it intended to maliciously harm you? Before you spin the anger wheel out of control, carefully reflect on this person. Would this person intentionally anger or attack you personally? If not, rethink your positioning before you respond or make accusations. This is a definite "bridge burner." And remember, a little honey is a lot sweeter than vinegar.

Listening Skills. One time or another, we’ve sat in conversation, daydreaming or pondering other thoughts. Somewhere in the middle of the conversation you’ve caught "part of the story." Completely off-guard, you’re offended and can’t understand why your counterpart is seething at you. Listening skills are the dynamic foundation of any relationship. If we only catch half the words then we’re guilty of being inattentive.

Burnt bridges are extremely hard to repair. The only recourse is to truly be apologetic and "mean" what you say to the person you’ve offended. Hopefully, your friend or partner will find it in his or her heart to forgive you.

The most important advice someone once gave me was "…be careful about the bridges you burn…you never know when you have to cross back over…" This proves true in most cases. Avoiding simple communication errors by collective listening, clear understanding, education, attitude and proper responses can prevent destruction of a relationship. In this precious life, we only have a little time to be the best person we can be - and burnt bridges should never be a part of our vocabulary.

Burnt Bridges: Can they be Avoided? © 2004 - All Rights Reserved

by C. Bailey-Lloyd/LadyCamelot

About the Author: C. Bailey-Lloyd - Author of "Somewhere Along the Beaten Path"

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