Sometimes you may feel annoyed, irked — or even downright furious — with a boss or a colleague. You really want to let fly, say exactly what you think, in the rudest possible way!
Speaking in anger can be hugely destructive. And knowing when to bite your tongue can be crucial to your success, as George demonstrates on Seinfeld’s Best of the Soup Nazi video, when he dares ask for bread.
Image courtesy of CC-BY-SA-3.0; Released under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Of course George was just a fictitious TV character. But the video points to a reality about burning your bridges. You may be in the right in a situation of conflict. But when you’re determined to show, at any cost, that you’re right, you sometimes end up burning your bridges and the one who pays.
You might not be aware that burning (or not burning) your bridges comes from the military expression “don’t burn your bridges behind you.” There was a time when troops would burn a bridge to prevent the enemy from crossing it. Yet, an intelligent military strategist knew that burning bridges also meant cutting off any route to retreat. That’s something you really don’t want to do.
If you figuratively burn your bridge in the workplace, you may find yourself unable to restore the relationship. It may even lead to losing your job or failure to get a reference. And now, more than ever, with today’s social networking, news travels fast. Do you really want to be known as the person who told their boss to “take this job and…!”
You might want to ask yourself, “What if I am treated unfairly; am I not allowed to stand up for myself?” Of course you can, but do it in a way that ensures continued income, potential advancement, and professional credibility. And consider the following advice.
The Language Lab’s Top Three Tips for Not Burning Your Bridges
1. Show a little respect: No matter how others have behaved, be respectful. Rise above their poor behavior; maintain your credibility, not to mention your dignity.
2. Think before you speak: Spend time strategizing how to politely reframe a difficult situation rather than blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. Take time to prepare a logical argument and present it courteously. You may get what you want.
3. Cultivate patience: Too often the root of an adversarial situation is really about a lack of tolerance of someone else’s communication style. It’s an easy default to think you’re always in the right. But if you’re patient with someone you feel is difficult, you may find a way to move forward instead of burning a bridge and ending any possibility of a positive outcome.
Instead of thinking about burning bridges, it’s much smarter to think about building them. It’s preferable to look for constructive ways, rather than hostile, negative ones, to address difficult situations.
After all, building a bridge to someone else is your relationship with that person. And in business as in personal life, the healthy relationships you create are key to your success…and happiness.
Have you ever “burned a bridge”? What would you recommend to others based on your experience? Let me know by commenting, below, or email The Language Lab.