Starting New With Those Who Have Offended You

August 11, 2019
Mary Jo Asmus

How often have you been having a conversation with someone that you aren’t fond of, and your mind wanders to some past offense that you believe they did to you? How about that employee that you hired who was so full of promise, but lost your trust?

When you pause to think, others come to mind who hurt you, did something behind your back, gossiped about you, or are the subject of your indignation for any number of reasons. You’d like to forget they exist. Yet in our increasingly collaborative workplaces, you can’t avoid them. They need you or you need them to get the work done.

Holding a grudge does no good for either of you; it only makes the relationship worse and negatively impacts your leadership. Trying to hide your feelings and acting as if nothing happened is equally ineffective. You can’t hide your emotions; they will show up on your face and in your body language.

What if you started working with them from this moment on? Rather than letting yourself be influenced by a past that you can do nothing about, how about beginning new with this person? Consider the possibilities for a positive relationship that is mutually beneficial when you:

Let go of that grudge that is weighing you down. When you leave the negative past behind, new possibilities will open for your collaborative partnership. They are a different person than they were yesterday, last week, month, or year. Who knows who they are now and how that might help your relationship to heal?

Get to know them differently on a personal level as you let go of thinking of them as just the person who did something troublesome to you. Find out a little more about what makes them tick (especially what makes them special) and listen to them to find mutual interests.

Become open to their potential as you see them as wonderfully human, and with similar wants and needs as yourself. You might even find challenges and sorrows that they’ve worked through in their life that will allow you to empathize. You may even ultimately understand them as someone who has real potential to do good in your collaborative work together.

See them in a new light as they change and become more real and human to you. At some point – who knows – they may become your ally; someone you can trust and count on to have your back. I’ve seen this happen, and the transformation that happens in both individuals for the better of some greater good can be magical.

Isn’t this what you’d rather have in your relationship? A partnership built on mutual trust and interests can work wonders for both of you and for your organization. It takes will, stamina, and effort to get there, but the result of your willingness to start anew will show your courage and model great leadership.

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Mary Jo Asmus is an executive/leadership coach whose work spans decades of making a difference in the lives of hundreds of executives, leaders and teams in Fortune 500, mid- and small-sized business, governments and nonprofits. She focuses on facilitating individuals and teams from first-line supervisor to the C-suite to create, develop, and influence the relationships that can make them extraordinary.

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