I had a really powerful thought last night.
I was thinking about how people – particularly couples – communicate during conflict.
Often, we see people become very entrenched in their own viewpoint and defending that as being the “correct” way of thinking, regardless of the validity of other people’s perspective, and sometimes even regardless of the facts.
Why do we do this?
In conflict, we become stressed. We become stressed because when someone doesn’t share our opinion about something we feel very strongly about, we become angry, frustrated, upset.
On some level we feel threatened. The reptilian part of our brains (the amygdala), which is responsible for emotions and fear response, is activated. We become all about the emotion, rather than rational thought.
We regress to something more primitive.
In a sense, we become smaller, because we shrink into ourselves – ready to defend our position.
Think of a coiled snake – all reptilian brain and spine – poised and ready to pounce. That’s essentially what we become.
When we defend our position, we either attack – getting our opinion in first and stating it over and over again regardless of who is listening, or we defend – “stonewalling” or blocking out what the other person is saying.
This feels so strong to us in that moment because it’s in our Nature to function this way. We are hard-wired.
It’s all about survival.
But we can be bigger than this.
And being bigger than this doesn’t mean that we deny that primitive part of ourselves. (We can’t – it’s evolved over millions of years!).
Being bigger than this means honouring this instinct to survive, and yet at the same time, transcending beyond it.
We can do this through embracing. True embracing is not about gripping and squeezing and contracting around your partner. It is the opposite.
It is opening up.
This is what embracing can involve:-
- We accept that our partner has their own feelings about something which are equally as important and as valid as our own
- We openly acknowledge our partner’s feelings with them
We hold compassion and empathy for our partner’s pain, particularly in those moments of intense disagreement
- We are open to the possibility that we might be wrong about something
- We allow ourselves to be challenged without thinking that makes our position “weaker”
Embracing and openness makes us far more powerful than if we take a position of stubbornness or defensiveness.
The World’s strongest leaders remain open to challenge, are happy to be questioned, can hold compassion even in extreme adversity, and can admit when they are wrong.
Don’t we respect them more because of it, rather than in spite of it?
Being open with your partner in this way, especially in times of conflict, means that you take responsibility for yourself.
You are confident enough in the validity of your own feelings to be able to hold your partner’s at the same time.
You can keep your head because you realise that your partner does not have the power to make you feel a certain way. Their behaviour might trigger you, but you realise that your feelings are part of your own internal process. And that you are responsible for your own actions.
This realisation can be so empowering!
When we feel strong, we are in the best possible position to be able to open up.
And this is where the greatest transformation and growth occurs in relationships!
Through compassionate conflict – not in spite of it.
Coming soon – Would you like my expert support to learn the EXACT techniques and steps to resolve conflict effectively without hurt, anger and frustration? If so, you will soon be able to sign up for my brand new Compassionate Conflict for Couples E-Course. At just £99 it is incredible value for at least 8 hours of coaching taking place over 4 weeks in the comfort of your own home, through videos, exercises and worksheets. And as an extra special gift for signing up, the first 10 people will receive a bonus 1:1 coaching call with me, absolutely FREE! These places will go fast and are strictly on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you would like any further information about this course or want to be notified as soon as it is released, or have anything else that you would like help with, I would be delighted to hear from you. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember – your relationship is a beautiful garden. Tend to it and maintain it to watch it thrive!