I recently had the pleasure of hanging out with a group of awesome CEOs, fellow members of my Virginia Council of CEOs Forum. Every year the group takes a few days to spend some quality time together—we rent a big house, hang out, make meals together, and connect on a deeper level, all with the goal of strengthening our relationships to better support one another and help each other navigate the tricky business (and sometimes life) situations we all face.
Our facilitator, Tom, brought us a question that was especially poignant for me. It was about unfinished business. Specifically, he asked us to think about a situation where we still have some outstanding resentments or pain and to dissect it a bit: When did it start? What was at the heart of it? How do we think the other person feels about it? What can we do to positively affect the situation from here? What next steps are we willing to commit to?
It’s not foreign for me to spend time thinking about this kind of situation, but because it’s painful and emotional, I would probably do one of two things with this kind of thought or memory:
1) allow the negative emotions to resurface and get swept up in them in a less-than-constructive way OR
2) continue to tamp down my emotions about it in order to not get upset and keep myself “safe” from the wound I’m trying to avoid.
But when you’re sitting in a room full of other CEOs tasked with exploring this too and you darn well know you’re going to have to share with the group, well, you do the work! So I did.
And I’m so glad! Once I was able to move past my negative emotions about the specific situation, I was able to see the perspective of the other party with much more clarity. And I was able to see what I could do to move things forward in a positive direction.
Obviously, there is no guarantee that my attempt to clear the air with this person will work. There is no guarantee we’ll be able to rebuild our relationship or that the pain of the situation will ever fully go away. But the least I can do is try. And so that’s what I’ve committed to do.
And now my challenge to you: What is your unfinished business, and what are you going to do about it?