Is It Ever Okay to Burn a Bridge?

It's okay to burn bridges

I hate dealing with conflict, but it’s a reality in life and in business.

Last year I was dealing with a sticky business situation that lawyers had to get involved in. It was super stressful because I knew it was going to lead to a bridge being burned. It took a bit of time —and a lot of yoga sessions 😉 —to fully accept that.

While I wish things would have ended differently between the parties involved, I look at every experience as an assignment, with something to learn from it. I came to realize that sometimes we absolutely have to burn bridges and remove people or projects or situations from our lives that are draining us of our energy.

If you find yourself dealing with a conflict or wondering whether it’s okay to burn a bridge, I hope my tips in this episode of She Takes on the World TV can help.

If you’ve ever gone through your own experience where you had to let a bridge burn, you probably have some great advice to share. I’d love to hear from you in a comment below.

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25 thoughts on “Is It Ever Okay to Burn a Bridge?

  1. Natalie – I dealt with a law suit this past year, too and while my lawyer reassured me over and over that litigation is just a biz decision, nothing emotional, it was hard to believe initially. But, its true!! And at the end of the day, that law suit was the BEST thing that could have happened to me as it really showed me the blueprint of where to take my biz next! The other party really mapped it out without even knowing! ha!
    Also, another great thing my lawyer said which totally helped me shift my perception from fear to joy was “Carolyn, you know you’ve hit the Big Time when someone sues you! You know you’re playing big in your field when your competitors start trying to hold you back.”
    He told me to take it all as a compliment.

    And so I have 🙂
    You’ll be better off for the experience!

    1. ahahahaha it’s funny because my lawyer said the same thing! I was almost in tears when I went to him to talk about this and another issue I was having and he said, “Hey, take a deep breath and let’s celebrate!” I was like, “Whoa, celebrate?! What can we possibly celebrate?” And he said, “This is big league shit! You’ve made it!” There’s always an upside, right?! Thanks for sharing your story Carolyn, I hope to see you back soon!

  2. I haven’t run into this in business yet – my business is still in its infancy. However, I have had to do this with friends a couple times. Sometimes it’s just not worth it to try to keep the relationship up. Feeling drained constantly by a specific person is one indicator that you need to reassess the relationship. Ending it completely is sometimes the only choice.

    1. Totally agree Amy. I’ve even had to cut relationships off with family members because of the negative energy they bring into my life. Some people think that’s totally crazy and sounds selfish but I have the right to choose who I surround myself with and the people we surround ourselves with can make or break us! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  3. Oh thank you! Just like you hearing the Usher song, the
    timing of your video is uncanny.

    Never have I had a bad outcome with someone and mostly that
    is because I work really hard to be kind, polite, compassionate, respectful,
    and understanding. However, there are two things that I have recently had to learn. 1. It is absolutely vital to speak up. If someone is treating you
    poorly, regardless of your fear of upsetting the other person, you have got to speak up. Just the act of speaking often dissipates the resentment and sometimes the misunderstanding.

    2. You have got to own the fallout if there is going to be one. Yes, first speak up and maybe everything will go back to being fine but sometimes speaking up will lead to a fall out because we can never control another person’s reactions. If the other person’s reaction turns out to be less
    than favorable, it does not mean that we should beat ourselves up and feel
    awful. It simply means that we can’t control how others are going to react and we need to not take it personally.

    Thank you Natalie for your video. The timing was perfect and I think it was the Universe’s way of giving me the confirmation I needed to hear that “sometimes shit happens” and it doesn’t make you a bad person.

    1. I’m so glad this video could serve you in some way today. I was in the same boat as you –working hard to be kind to everyone, understanding and helpful, and I always go the extra mile. Speaking up was hard because I didn’t want anyone to think I wasn’t kind or helpful or understanding. You’re right that it’s absolutely something you’ve just gotta do sometimes, which can lead to a situation you don’t want to be in. I think what you said is super important to always remember: “Shit happens and it doesn’t make you a bad person.” It took me a while to really get that 😉 Thank you so much for your comment! I hope you’ll be back for future episodes.

  4. It was very important for my motivation, at the time when I wanted to change my life, and move form Poland, where I had a very successful IT company to Belgium to take the World on 😉 I have decided to burn all bridges behind me – I have sold my company.

    So I did not have where to come back in case of a failure.

    Having no choice – I was committed 120%!

    And I have succeeded, I live in Belgium since 8 years and have my super life with my great family and coaching business.

    I agree Natalie, not only we should burn bridges, but sometimes we MUST.

    Take risk and be daring!

    Thanks for great tips Natalie and kisses from Brussels;-)

    1. I love Brussels, Ewa! And I can’t wait to launch the Conquer Club there with you.

      Thanks for sharing your story. You’re so right that sometimes we have to leave the past behind and start anew. It’s brave of you to have the courage to do that.

  5. I’ve been singing this song for so many years. I loathe that saying. Most of the people who say it, are those who smile when they hate you, say nice things when they’re angry and keep relationships because of what they think they stand to gain. To me all of those things are dishonest. Do I burn bridges? I don’t think so. But sometimes I walk away from them. And sometimes I say things that send people running to the other side. But I try to always be authentic. Even if that means I have to say “Based on your actions, you’re not a person that I want involved in my life/business right now.” Once I’ve said my piece, I leave it to that person to determine if they’d like to deal with that or light the fire. I don’t chase them, I don’t sit at their feet begging from them to return. I don’t even peek across the bridge to see where they are. I move on, continue through life and if they happen to catch up with me later (with a new attitude), then it’s all good.

    I’m so glad to see someone else promoting authenticity and standing up to these old, worn out, empty sayings that don’t serve anyone!

  6. Great advice, Natalie. I also had to burn a bridge with a colleague several years ago and I also had an “Usher Song” moment, courtesy of the universe. I was lying awake at 3 a.m. thinking about the situation and how sad I was to lose a friend. Then a thought popped into my head that said: “maybe her behavior, as awful as it was, was a gift to me because her toxicity could have caused me even more damage the closer I let her in.” The minute I thought that, I felt a tap on my shoulder. My husband was sleeping beside me and there was no one else in the room. I had never before, and have never since, had such an experience. But I listened… and have never regretted ousting this dead wood from my life.

  7. Thanks for posting this Nathalie. I actually had to do this with my own mother, and it was a very difficult decision to make. I carried a lot of guilt about it for a long time, but over time I realized… it is ok that some relationships don’t need to be mended, even with close family. I realize the relationship was taking a toll on my health, and that I was actually a “better” person without her in my life. Other people’s behaviour is out of your control, and sometimes, you need to do what’s best for YOU, and let the chips fall where they may! I do however, try to learn as much as I can about experiences like this… take it as a valuable life lesson. I’m definitely at peace with the decision 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for this comment Marie, I really appreciate that you shared your story. I think your story could really help Hannah (a few comments above) in making a difficult decision about the abusive relationship between her and her father.

  8. Thanks for a thought-provoking video. I completely agree that it’s necessary to burn bridges sometimes when the person or people in question are taking your energy, time and emotional sanity with little or no reciprocity. It’s a last resort, and I think it’s important to do what you can to rescue the situation beforehand. As Christine Arylo puts it well, however: “Respect isn’t an optional upgrade in relationships, it’s mandatory.”

  9. I am grateful that so far, I haven’t experienced a lawsuit (hoping this will continue till my last day on earth) but I have definitely burned bridges along the way. Its a path we all don’t want to go but somehow this is a very important path to take because if not, then we wouldn’t learn how to appreciate the people who sincerely are blessings in our lives.

  10. Hi Natalie,

    Great video. My dad has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I’ve put up with years (…YEARS…) of psychological and verbal abuse, and when I was younger, occasional physical abuse which resulted in bruises or a split lip. I moved out ten years ago and our relationship has grown even more strained. He had a heart attack a few weeks ago and when I called him over the weekend to say hi and check in on his health, the conversation ended with him alluding to me not really loving him (which is untrue — I don’t like him but, I DO love him) and him telling me to shut the **** up, to which I responded with, “Your’e such a ****ing narcissist, and I’m tired of putting up with your **** like I have for years.” He hung up on me, and that was the last we spoke. I feel like this is a bridge I shouldn’t burn (he raised me, paid for part of my college, took me around the world, and more), ESPECIALLY since his health is deteriorating, but he drains me emotionally. I know you’re not a psychiatrist or anything, but I’m curious about your take on this. Ok to burn bridges with parents?

    1. That’s tough Lisa, and you’re right, I’m not a psychiatrist and it’s not my intention to replace professional advice. 🙂 That being said, I’m going to pull the quote Hannah posted above from Christine Arylo: “Respect isn’t an optional upgrade in relationships, it’s mandatory.” You deserve to be treated with respect and no person should ever have to endure abuse as part of any relationship, related or not related. Only you know the right decision to make in this difficult situation, and whatever you choose I believe forgiveness is an important part of the path forward. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with any of my friend Gabby Bernstein’s work but she talks about healing relationships a little bit in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UiG8spH80AU

      Sending you lots of love and positive energy xo

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