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“Don’t Burn Bridges”, Strengthen Them

You’re working for a terrible boss or having trouble with a particularly taxing client or friend and finally enough is enough! It’s time to “give them a piece of my mind!

Then you remember to breathe, your rational mind calms and suddenly you remember the old adage, “don’t burn bridges.”

It’s a great concept and one that I fully endorse. However, as Procabulary jedis will be quick to point out, the phrase is in Negation. It’s focus is on an undesired outcome and places the image of a burning bridge (and disastrous relationship fallout) clearly in our minds.

So let’s translate this statement. What do we want to happen? What is the desired outcome of “don’t burn bridges”?

My vote: “Do Strengthen Bridges”

You might be reading this and think of a particulary annoying situation in which the person deserved an exploding bridge – burning would’ve been kind. I get that. We’ve all been there. Here’s my counter.

If we choose to be elegant in our way, if we demonstrate to the other party and (here’s the kicker) to those observing our behavior that this is how we conduct ourselves in the face of conflict – the benefits both personally and in our professional circles will far outweigh the short term release of anger.

People grow, they change, they gain perspective. Sometimes we were right, sometimes they were right. Usually we both share some responsibility for the conflict. Either way, elegantly strengthening bridges with empathy, professionalism and consideration is a guaranteed strategy for short term peace and longterm wisdom.


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