A close friend called into our house on Sunday morning. We always have a great chat. A ‘by-the-way’ half way through a story he was relating stuck in my ceann afterwards.
The story related to a terminally ill buddy he went to visit in a Dublin hospital. When it came time to leave, my friend found the patients brother standing outside in the hallway. “Would you do me one favour”, he asked. “Ask John (not his real name) if he will see me.” The two brothers hadn’t spoken for twenty years.
The sick brother had no hesitation in agreeing to see his sibling. No words were spoken, but my friend left the two brothers in a tearful embrace. The flip side of this coin is that I have known siblings to fall out and die without ever again speaking to each other.
How many families do we all know where a rift opened and people stop speaking to each other. It may have been an almighty row, or more likely, something small, where pride and stubbornness caused both parties to pull back behind their self-created demilitarisation zone. The saddest part of all is that sometimes these family rifts are inherited by the next generation.
It isn’t only in the family circle that what appeared to be solid relationships can break down. You see where two business partners can work together and build up a successful company, until one day a breakdown occurs and they become the bitterest of enemies. Solicitors become involved … and as always, they are the only winners.
Ordinary friendships are no less important than any of the above. If two people have been long-time friends and have enough in common to make them friends in the first place, it is a great pity when such a relationship gets broken.
A feeling of betrayal is one of the major causes of a rift among humans. It is worse now in this day and age where lies and deviousness are in the ascendency and truth – even when the truth is obvious, doesn’t count. But the important thing to remember is that we have no control over anybody else, and therefore the answer to mending a rift is to accept the other party for being how and what they are.
People often speak about ‘trying to heal a rift’. To me, healing means curing and maybe this is setting the bar too high for a broken relationship. I think that the word ‘mending’ is much more appropriate here. When you mend something, it may not necessarily be as good as new, but this is much better than not having any at all. It will get the relationship up and running again. The hardest thing is to give the other fellow the right to be wrong, but we should all work on it.
A family I am close to down in the south-east of the country built up a massive business, eventually employing hundreds of workers. The couple were good and generous employers. But, ‘there’s always one’, and there was this renegade employee who couldn’t get on with anybody nor do his job. One day, after telling his boss to ‘stick his job’, he walked off the site.
Next thing he took a case for ‘unfair constructive dismissal’ and he won considerable compensation.
The following Saturday evening the business couple were having a drink in their local and there was ‘yer man’ at the other end of the counter with a smirk on his face. So what did his former employer do? He sent him down a pint! Now, that is class and I wish I could be a bit more like that man.
The only way to mend a rift is by not expecting anything for yourself. This is one time you need to start every sentence with ‘I’ instead of ‘you.’ If you put down an ultimatum or expect an apology, it’s not going to work. The best place to start the mending process is by engaging the help of a mutual friend who never took sides during the rift.
Don’t be afraid to initiate the first move. The worst that can happen is a rejection and this is not your problem. From your side, you start off by admitting anything you did wrong and stating how you could have handled the situation better. More often than not, the other party will respond in kind and admit their mistakes which caused the breakdown.
Prevention is better that cure. ‘Bite you tongue’ is an age-old piece of good advice: Easier said than done and many of us would be eating tons of ‘Bonjello’ if only we could adhere to that motto!
Actions speak louder than words – and speak fewer lies.