If You’re Looking to Heal the Rift…
“The minute you say, ‘No, I never said that,’ or ‘That’s not how I was,’ the communication starts to shut down.”
Meet in person, if possible
It may feel less uncomfortable to dash off an email or a text expressing a desire to mend things, but Gilbertson says that would be a mistake. According to her, face to face is the best way to communicate, with phone coming in at second best. Written communication should be a last resort.
“Writing is a terrible way to try to repair relationships,” she says, given that misunderstandings are so common. “It’s just so easy for someone to read your thoughtful words quickly, and with a tone that they attribute to them,” which may be different than the one you intended. If an in-person meeting isn’t possible, she recommends leaving a voice mail so your estranged loved one can hear your tone and sincerity.
Let them know what they can expect when you get together. “If you just reach out and say, ‘I think we need to talk. Can we FaceTime?’ and leave it at that, it’s usually not effective,” Gilbertson said. “But if you say, ‘I need to apologize to you. I hate what’s going on between us and I feel like it’s my fault. Can we FaceTime on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.?’” that clarity makes your proposal seem less daunting, and tends to yield better results.
Even if you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong, asking for forgiveness can go a long way in mending things. Gilbertson recommends thinking about an apology as an important tool for relationship repair rather than an admission of guilt.
It’s also crucial not to get defensive during your conversations. “The minute you say, ‘No, I never said that,’ or ‘That’s not how I was,’ or ‘I would never do do that,’ the communication starts to shut down,” Gilbertson says. The only thing bickering accomplishes is creating more ill will.
Joshua Coleman, a psychologist and the author of several books on familial conflict, says it can be helpful to remember that family members can experience separate realities. He suggests calmly stating that you’re entitled to your own perception about the events that transpired. “It may pacify the situation to reiterate that there is no objective right and wrong about what happened,” he says, “but we are all entitled to our own feelings.”
Think about what moving forward looks like
“If you do feel reconciliation is what you want, taking a good amount of time to process what you need from a reformed relationship can be necessary,” Bland says. Think about the role each of you played in the situation that caused the estrangement, and consider not only how you intend to change your behavior moving forward, but also what you’d need from your loved one.