There may be times where you’re tempted to say what’s on your mind regardless of the consequences. In the moment, voicing your opinion without thinking things through may seem like an appropriate response. You might feel like it reinforces your image with an aura of authenticity. If you think back, you may recall hearing from family members, professors, or classmates, that while it can be difficult to hold your tongue in the heat of the moment, you shouldn’t burn bridges. However, there may come a time where you must weigh the cost of speaking up and decide if it’s more valuable to maintain the lines of communication and continue to build bridges, or reduce a relationship to nothing more than a memory.
Dictionary.com defines a bridge as "A structure spanning and providing passage over a river, chasm or road." In other words, a bridge connects one thing to another. The smartphone on your desk or the table in front of you could be a bridge to facilitate a conversation with a close friend or colleague on the other side. In a relationship with personal value, you would be willing to invest the time and effort to repair the damage, rebuild the bridge, and re-establish
all lines of communication. On the other hand, if the relationship is professional, take the time to evaluate the situation and recognize how allowing the bridge to crumble could affect your performance, productivity and reputation. While you can try to get along and build bridges with as many people as you can, you can't expect them all to like you, and to be fair, you won't like all of them either. As you develop and mature, your personal and professional relationships will evolve as well. Ask yourself what you can do to communicate better.
In a Forbes article written by Ron Caruccis’ titled, How To Build Bridges Between The Most Bitterly Divided People, Ron references a four-phase model for structuring complex conversations among people who can’t see eye to eye. The model was developed by two-time Emmy-nominated TV producer Riaz Patel.
Riaz Patels’ four-phase model to build bridges:
Allowing yourself to use words to incinerate a relationship, whether personal or professional, can create an impression that lasts for years. In this context it means standing your ground. You can choose to keep tensions from boiling over by holding your tongue, or you can get the wind behind your back and use it to push yourself forward and speak your mind. Liz Ryan wrote an article on Forbes called “Never Burn Bridges -- Except In These Five Cases” where she says “Sometimes burning a bridge is the healthiest thing you can do.” So, in essence, there are times when burning a bridge built on an unhealthy amount of patience, and silence is the only path to salvage your morals and ethics. If you must burn a bridge, do it wisely, with your eyes open. Be true to yourself and embrace the consequences and residual effects that you may not see coming, but are surely on the way.
Liz Ryans’ five situations to burn bridges:
Humans are social creatures, and while we may strive to maintain and build relationships, sometimes we must burn bridges to maintain our sanity and preserve our beliefs. Bridges connect one place to another, but they can also be metaphorical, facilitating communication between people. We all have experiences that have moulded us into who we are today. Whether we choose to build or to burn bridges, there’s a lot we can learn from perspectives that differ from our own.