Inevitably in life, there comes a time when a friendship or relationship (work or personal) ends. You have two choices: remain on friendly terms with the other person, or completely burn the bridge between you.
I know I’ve burned my fair of bridges over the years: overreacting during confrontations, firing off emails and texts that I should have kept to myself, saying things I can’t take back. I’ve even burned some bridges by simply allowing some friendships and relationships fizzle out because I was too afraid to express my feelings or fight to keep them around. And because of this, there are certain people that used to be in my life that aren’t anymore, friendships I can never fully repair because of things said or left unsaid.
Now that I’m in my 20s, I’m realizing how foolish it is to burn bridges (except in cases where doing so gets you out of a toxic friendship/relationship, or difficult or otherwise unethical work situation). Telling someone off might feel great in the heat of the moment, but the moment of regret afterwards just isn’t worth it. And neither is the awkward feeling when you have to face that person later on.
To help you stop burning bridges, I’ve outlined below a few situations where it may be tempting to do so, followed by a more constructive way to react to the situation.
How you burn bridges: Leaving to start a new job without warning anyone or giving them time to replace you.
How to react instead: While a two week’s notice may seem like an outdated concept, it’s nice to give someone the courtesy of advanced notice. This gives you time to tie up loose ends, and gives your employer time to start searching for your replacement. It’ll make your transition out of the company easier for everyone involved.
How you burn bridges: Quitting and making a dramatic exit.
How to react instead: It may be tempting to tell your boss off, announce that you’re quitting, and storm out the door. But doing so will haunt you later in your career: what if your next employer finds out that’s how you ended things? Instead, put your two week’s notice in, and then prepare for an exit interview. If your manager doesn’t schedule one themselves, ask for it. Exit interviews are an excellent opportunity for you to give constructive criticism to your manager or upper management. Most managers look at exit interviews as a way to improve working conditions for the next person to fill your role.
How you burn bridges: Firing off a text message or email in the heat of the moment.
How to react instead: When you receive a text or email that upsets you, take a moment to reflect on exactly what it is about the message that makes you feel that way. Keep your emotions in check when crafting your response, and ask yourself how you would feel if you were receiving that response, even if the other person technically started it. There’s no sense in escalating a situation just because you’re upset.
How you burn bridges: Breaking up with someone or ending a friendship over text.
How to react instead: I get it, ending a relationship or friendship is just plain awkward. But don’t be that person that does it over text. Instead, make time for a face-to-face discussion. Be honest and open about what you’re feeling, and why you want to end the relationship or friendship. At the very least, this will give the person you are dealing with the chance to address their side of things, and once both parties know the other’s perspective, there might even be a chance to patch things up. If not, you’ll at least know exactly how the other person feels so there are no miscommunications or misconceptions of why things ended.
How you burn bridges: Leaving thing unsaid.
How to react instead: Don’t assume people always know when they do something wrong. Make sure the other person clearly understands your position. Rather than bottle things up, don’t be afraid to have an open and honest conversation about your feelings.
How you burn bridges: … or not leaving anything unsaid.
How to react instead: Know when to keep your mouth shut. There are some things that are just simply better left unsaid. Don’t say things, true or untrue, just to hurt someone. Use discretion and know the difference between something that needs to be said and something that’s better left unsaid.
And there you have it. Six ways to burn bridges, and six constructive ways to react instead.
Have you ever burned a bridge before? Tell us, how did it go down? How did you/the other party react to it?