Conflict is not only an inevitable part of life and relationships, but it’s also one of the most valuable gifts. Healthy and effective conflict is where the “magic” happens—where people come to know, understand, trust and connect at the most intimate levels. It’s where the most meaningful and fulfilling growth and healing begin to occur.
However, part of understanding how to engage that magic is recognizing when you’re slipping into old habits of defensiveness and taking note of when you’re ignoring, avoiding, minimizing, redirecting, negating, or otherwise being closed off or reactive to another person.
Once you start to acknowledge and get a handle on managing your defenses, the next phase of frustration is watching other people wrestle with their own defenses. This is often when people feel hopeless and regress into old habits of communication, because the ego laments, “Why should I bother if they aren’t even trying?!”
Rather than reinforce behaviors in yourself and others that you’d rather evolve and model your way out of, remember that ultimately you’re responsible for your engagement in the experience. If the dialogue isn’t loving and open, stop participating in your—or their—defenses. Similar to waiting to pet a dog until he calms down and sits nicely, everyone can learn that the most effective way to feel loved and achieve resolution during conflict is to remain open yourself, avoid reacting defensively, and receive the other person lovingly.
It’s okay to put down the rope. Pause. Regroup. Return when you’re ready to connect from your heart space.
Remember that tug-o-war can only happen if two people choose to hold the rope.