I was recently sent an email highlighting Billy Joel's song, We Didn't Start The Fire. This is a great song both musically and historically, demonstrating politics and the human condition. However, while there is some truth to his point that humans are a messy lot, there is a bit of denial of responsibility to the lyrics. Or perhaps it is just a twist on the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog - the claim being humans in their nature will create strife.
However, I think we often look at the action of first conflict without understanding why and where that conflict originates. Sometimes it doesn't matter. If a robber breaks in my home, threatening my family, there is no time to analyze his psychological profile. But when it comes to our own close and personal relationships, taking that time and avoiding hasty decisions is important. Yet we often fail to do that, and then cast our own reactions as a required response to an offense.
I believe much conflict in relationships, whether that be between friends, lovers, co-workers or children-and-parents, is due to failure to express what's going on. Sometimes we discover we are "taking a trip to Abilene," which is a metaphor for something no one wants but everyone agrees to do. Sometimes we have differing goals, but fail to compromise out of fear of rocking the boat. Sometimes it is more complex than either of these, but in all cases the fear and resentment builds. In the end frustration results and sometimes bridges get burned.
Speaking rudely and disrespectfully can burn bridges, but that is probably more about attitude. Having a relationship with someone whose attitude is constantly disrespectful might require that bridge be set afire anyway, as breaking associations isn't always a bad thing. However, for desirable and maintainable bonds, expressing what's inside is essential. It's not the fiery tongue that burns the bridge, but rather the failure to communicate. It is from this silence where assumptions spark and ignite the destruction.