When we are enjoying relationships that are mutually satisfying we feel supported in our lives, navigation of life tends to seem fairly straight forward.  What about when there’s a hiccup in those relationships; for instance, when someone is angry or frustrated with you?  Suddenly there’s a new level of tension that probably comes into play.  How do you react?  Do you tend to explain and justify yourself?  Do you understand the other person’s anger?  Do you find the same action/reaction playing out time and time again?

The Daily Good shared a very interesting piece, What To Do When You’ve Made Someone Angry  by Peter Bregman * which was originally printed in the Harvard Business Review.  In it he explains how he came to understand that some of the turmoil in relationships is created by the different focus of the individuals between the original intention and the actual result of an action.

He and his wife learned first hand how this works.

In other words, I was focused on my intention while Eleanor was focused on the consequences. We were having two different conversations. In the end, we both felt unacknowledged, misunderstood, and angry.

The more I thought about what Ken said, the more I recognized that this battle — intention vs. consequences — was the root cause of so much interpersonal discord.

He reminds us that resolving this is very simple – show empathy and understanding towards the other person.  It works wonders.  He even goes so far as to say that because this resolves the relationship hiccup, the usual compulsion to reveal our original intentions doesn’t feel so important anymore.  However, he has a disclaimer – he emphasizes the solution is simple, but not easy. However, I think that making the effort to put aside our initial instinct to explain ourselves, and instead to offer understanding to others not only helps to heal our relationships but also make them stronger.  We believe it creates the atmosphere for us all to rise like air.

* CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc., a global management consulting firm which advises CEOs and their leadership teams. Author of several books including the award-winning 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done.