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Burning Our Bridges in Conflict

There are times when we are in conflict that our emotions lead us to say things that do not positively advance a civilized discussion focused on a resolution. In fact, some comments can lead to a breakdown in the relationship altogether, and for some that’s the objective some of the time.

Using a military frame, in this regard, comes the expression “burning one’s bridges”, which means “to intentionally cut off one’s own retreat (burning a bridge one has crossed) to commit oneself to a course of action, later used primarily to mean ‘alienate former friends’”.

The purposefulness of burning one’s bridges is significant in this discussion as it is common that we say and do things in the pique of anger, but do not have the conscious intention of destroying the connection. We then, unintentionally, “burn our bridges” and realize too late we have said or done something irreparable. Other times we may intend to end the relationship.

This week’s blog invites you to consider two situations – one in which you burned bridges with someone and one in which the other person did so.

  • In the incident in which you burned bridges with someone else, what was the situation?
  • What did you say or do that you think or know was the “burn”? What bridge was burned?
  • What was your intention when you said or did that (your answer to the previous question)?
  • How did the other person respond? Where are things at now?
  • What do you wish you had said or done, if anything different, from what you said or did?
  • How are you feeling now, having burned the bridges with this person?
  • When someone has burned bridges with you, how do you describe what the “burn” was in that specific conflict? What was the bridge?
  • How was the bridge being burned for you?
  • What, if anything, has continued to simmer for you about the same situation (in which the other person burned the bridge to you)?
  • In retrospect, what bridge did this conflict actually build inside you?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

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