It is inevitable that every now and then, we find ourselves in conflict with those closest to us. Our buttons are pushed, we’re about to flip out, and we can't seem to get through to the other person.
But conflict like this is a result of intimacy, and intimacy is a hallmark of love. If you believe this, then you can imagine that every difficult situation offers gold to extract, love to feel, and compassion to unearth. Love is our greatest teacher—but we have to listen to learn.
Consider these five ways to transform your next fight into a productive conversation with a positive resolution.
1. Listen. Listen deeply. Now listen even more deeply.
When we truly listen, we empty ourselves of judgment, reaction, the past, the future, right and wrong, and so on. The reactive mind may still run, but we aren't buying into it. We drop into the present moment, listening with all our being, not listening to respond but simply listening to understand, thereby supporting the other in truly being heard.
When we do this, we give compassion and clarity room to guide us. Remember, just like us, our beloved’s perspective is shaped by their own chemistry and perspective. Only when we truly listen can we begin to hear what’s underneath the surface (like a desire to feel loved, accepted, and safe), understand where they are coming from, and move into healing unity instead of division.
2. Let yourself be guided by love.
Often in arguments, we fall into patterns of defensiveness that we mistakenly believe protect us, but they never do. Only love protects us and holds us in truth. We must come from love, not from fear. When we come from love, we unify. When we don’t, we divide. So, check yourself before you express yourself: Are you coming from love? Is what you’re about to say going to unify or divide? Yes, you really are this empowered—it is completely up to you.
3. Own your feelings.
You and you alone are responsible for how you feel. We are each a unique constellation of memory, patterns, imprints, beliefs, astrology, and so on. The way something inspires us to feel is different from how it might make another person feel. Our partners, friends, and other people we meet along the journey of life are not here to save us from ourselves.
Rather, our relationships and interpretations are a mirror that show us what is within us. When we feel angry, sad, rejected, etc., it is up to us to own that and communicate that. We are accountable to ourselves, always and only. It is up to us to be curious about what might be beneath that old feeling, like unresolved memories, wounding, and so on.
Healthy relationships are often a sanctuary where we finally feel safe to resolve the unresolved, so it is normal and healthy for unresolved material to arise. Because of that, it is beautiful to let our partners know about our sensitivities so they can be considerate and help us apply the healing salve of love.
4. Remember that timing is everything.
You don't always need to respond to your partner’s sharing immediately, and vice versa. Sometimes listening deeply and communicating lovingly means hearing the other’s message and taking time and space to absorb it. Sometimes the best growth comes when one person sits down and shares their perspective and experience, and the other holds it sacred while they listen. No conversation or discussion necessary, only truly being heard.
Trust that the other will take your message “home” with them and deeply consider it. Then, perhaps later, a response can be shared, whether in the form of words or behavior. If the listener becomes triggered, that’s on the listener—when we listen, we contain our energy and give the other the presence we both deserve.
5. Choose being happy over being right.
The most “right” people are, without a doubt, the most lonely. Being “right” has no place in loving communication, so if that vibe is present, it’s your signal to return to love. If your partner is choosing war over peace, allow yourself to open into compassion for them (while excusing yourself to take some space, if need be).
Without a doubt, in these moments, he or she is in an isolated, ego-based state, feeling fragmented and in pain. At the core, we all need partners we trust to do their best to grow. If that’s what we’ve got, then we can feel comfortable letting the whole situation go—proceeding as if the other person is right.
If we can’t, then we should begin to explore our commitment to "die-hard truth." In the end, this is just ego in disguise. If absolutely necessary, we can readdress the misunderstanding in a different moment, once the storm has passed and he or she is able to see clearly again.
But for now, take a deep breath. Let it go. Stay centered. Allow your partner to feel their storm has room to run its natural course and pass without getting shut down by the truth police.
All this doubles as general life advice for discovering the miraculous in the challenging and mundane—it’s not only relevant to relationships. When we live like this, committed to truth and to love, we finally begin to live the gorgeous life of the heart.