Fixing Bridges Left to Deteriorate

Originally published on Medium under my name in October, 2019. Publishing here with some minor edits.

I’m talking about personal bridges that we haven’t burned but that we let deteriorate because of our failure to act on an opportunity. It isn’t quite the same thing as burning them because you didn’t necessarily do something intentionally or malicious. However, cleaning them up and making them passable again may take some time.

We’ve all let opportunities pass us over. I’m talking about friends or co-workers that offered to help you in some way and you didn’t seize the gift they offered. It may be a business opportunity, investment opportunity, or personal event. Whatever it is, not seizing on it can cause people to lose faith or trust in you. That bleeds over into other aspects of those relationships as well.

There may have been good reasons you didn’t take the opportunity such as health, money, major life change, or other issues. Whatever the reason, unless you’re close enough to the person and told them what was going on, then all they saw was a lack of appreciation for what they gave you.

The good thing is that most friends are still just that, friends. They still care about you. They haven’t given up on you and still want to see you succeed. But if they gave you opportunities in the past and you didn’t jump on it, then naturally they’ll be hesitant to do it again because it was a gift they offered you that you didn’t nurture it. It wouldn’t have mattered whether you were successful or not, it’s just the fact that you didn’t try.

So how do you rebuild that bridge? I can’t say that I am an expert at it, but here is how I am approaching rebuilding my bridges.

Don’t Ask, Just Do

Asking them for the opportunity again may not be best. If they are very close friends, then perhaps you can, but they already offered it to you once and you let it go. Instead, if the opportunity is still something you want to take grasp of, see if you can still make it work and make it successful. Don’t talk about it, just do it.

If you are successful at accomplishing what they originally gifted you, then tell them that although it wasn’t the right time then, it was the right time now and that you are grateful for their gift. Thank them for that opportunity or advice they gave and how it helped you. Don’t expect anything else from them but if they do offer to help more, then don’t let them down again.

Do What You Can, Then Ask

If you can’t complete the task without their direct involvement, then try and break it down and see what you can accomplish without them. It should be something visual and that produces some type of result. Then show it to them and tell them that you would like to complete the task but need their help.

They may be wary, but be honest with them. Tell them why it took you so long to make it happen. This is especially difficult with co-workers because personal issues should not bleed into the workplace. Keep in mind that there are no excuses for not doing it the first time, but we are all human and feelings interfere with our actions. The best leaders understand this.

Just Let It Go

If they aren’t willing to give you another chance, then don’t get upset or hold a grudge. After all, the relationship is the most important thing especially if it’s a friend. Just thank them for discussing it and let it go. You can’t be mad with someone else for your failures or inattention.

The best you can hope for is to build yourself back up, perform awesomely, and show them who you really are. Then maybe they will offer you an opportunity again in the future.

Words of Wisdom?

Friends aren’t obligated in any way, shape, or form to help you. They do it because of the connection they feel with you. Whether it’s similar hobbies, beliefs, or simply business opportunities, they choose to be around you.

But we all get focused on other aspects of our lives. Whether it is children, our health, our marriage, or our career, we will let opportunities go unanswered. Do it too many times and the bridges that connect you to your friends will slowly deteriorate and rebuilding them may be a challenge.

But just remember that friends are there for each other and if you approach it properly, then rebuilding those bridges will be a simple task.