I saw this brilliant piece in the Wall Street Journal (20 March 2012) about building relationships with sibling "rivals", but in my opinion the advice has much broader implications for growing our relationships for how we deal with others in life.
The article describes about how one man sends his brother, with whom he has been fighting with for years, the following story in an email:
"Two men had a stream dividing their properties. One man hired a carpenter to build a fence along the stream, but the carpenter built a bridge by mistake." The brother then wrote, "I'd like to walk over the bridge."
Wow! This is a very powerful story.
We can choose to build walls to separate us or build bridges to close the divide.
This can be applied to so many situations, where building relationships has a genuine chance or can be a lost and forgone opportunity.
In the office, for example, some people choose to put up proverbial walls between themselves and others. They do this by closing their doors, scowling at others, putting up signs that they are having a bad day, or perhaps by literally surrounding themselves with the accoutrements of their office (desks, chairs, appliances, mementos) and sending a message of a clear distance between them and others--almost like they are circling the wagons and no one will get in without getting shot.
While others take a different approach and are busy building bridges between themselves and others. For example, they regularly say good morning and how are you, they have a true open door policy, they may even have a candy dish or other enticements for others to stop by and just talk. They are open to others to share, collaborate and to build relationships.
Thus, just like with the two brothers, the conflict between them can turn into a hard and deeply anchored wall that closes all venues or the opposite, a bridge that connects us.
Think about it as building or burning bridges. When dealing with people who are really not deserving of trust, sometimes there is no choice but to separate and "live and let live," but when dealing with those with whom a real relationship is possible and even desirable, then start building those bridges today or at least take a first step and put out that candy dish. ;-)
(Source Photo: Blumenthal)