When an argument or conflict arises, I have to check in and ask myself, “Am I seeking to win or to understand?” “Do I want to truly engage or only to defend?”
For much of the earlier years of my life my first triggered reaction to conflict was to defend and win. As you can imagine, this never really worked out so well. I thought I was ‘winning’ in the conflict if I could prove myself right. What I found is that “right” often means isolated or alone. You know it’s bad when you start hearing, “You’re really good at arguing, you should really be a lawyer.” And you know it is really, really bad when you take that as a compliment!
As I have matured, grown and allowed myself to be guided by wonderful teachers, I have learned to bring my awareness to what the deepest part of me really wants and what it looks like when my strongest and most vulnerable self shows up in a conflict.
My intentions shift from needing to win to wanting to be in a deeper and more loving relationship. I want connection. I want intimacy. I want to experience and invite more love. I want to grow and mature and evolve. I want to empower and lift up those around me. And I want to do all of that in partnership and relationship with others.
When I couple those conscious intentions with the powerful practice of being curious, everything completely changes.
Curiosity about what is really happening within me and within the other person is a beautiful practice that can immediately soften judgement and defense and invite compassion and understanding.
I experience true freedom when I can turn judgement, anger, blame or any other “distancing” reaction into an ’embrace of understanding’ through the thoughtful practice of true curiosity.
And when I become curious about what the other person is really experiencing and why they feel or believe as they do, a simple but amazing thing happens – I see them again. What I mean is that when I am trying to win, they are an object to win against. They become some “thing” to argue against. I become blind to their humanity and I forget the true gift of our relationship. I disassociate and distance myself from them.
But when I intentionally seek to understand and allow myself to feel compassion, suddenly they become quite human again. It’s like a veil is lifted and there they are again right there in front of me; a beautiful human being with their own fears and desires and doubts and blessings and foibles and faults. There they are with their own capacity to love and understand and connect.
When I consciously intend to honor and respect the other person and become curious, there is an immediate leaning in to engage rather than holding a defensive stance for them to try to beat.
And yes, like everything else, it is a practice. We learn to recognize when we are triggered and we learn what our disempowering reactions look like and we learn how to intentionally respond in ways that bring us closer to what our hearts really want.
For me, to be curious is one of the most powerful ‘ways of being’ when meeting conflict and friction with those I love and with those I’m learning to love.