As a society we are obsessed with conflict. We love it and we hate it. We love to watch it on reality shows. We like to see it in others as long as we aren’t close to it. We love to watch our sports teams and athletes square off. We love to take sides, to find wrong and right and to see winners and losers. We also love to do whatever it takes to avoid conflict because it is uncomfortable. We will withhold information, side step by saying something different than we really mean and sometimes completely run away.
What if we saw conflict as sharing punches? As a sort of maze that we both had to go into and navigate together to come out of with some new answers? What if we saw conflict as a process to learn about what hurts us, what we are desperate to defend and how much we want our ideas heard? What if we saw the person we are having conflict with as having the same issues? What if we didn’t see the result of conflict having to have a winner and loser, a right and wrong person? Would we try to avoid it as much?
Sparring is a beautiful example of the kind of conflict I desire. Two of us go in the ring. We both have strengths and skills needing improvement. We both agree to share punches in order to learn about our skills and needs for improvement. We both agree that neither is the cause of our pain, but we can be a stand in to bring up the emotions and difficulties that we each have.
I spar 8 rounds every Friday with my sparring partner. I look forward to this day every week. He agrees to expose my openings and give me an opportunity to make adjustments so I can respond differently, to learn new muscle memory. He agrees to take responsibility for his actions and I agree to take responsibility for my own. It is the most powerful 30 minutes of my week. I get to take all these things spinning around in my head, enter into a maze of conflict and physically work it out. It is a beautiful thing.
Now, I am trying to figure out how to get this same feeling when I have conflict outside of the ring and being physical isn’t the appropriate response. How do I listen to my words as intently as I listen to the punches I deliver in sparring? I like this conundrum and am starting to welcome conflict in small ways. It is still largely uncomfortable and my defenses and emotions make things much muddier, but sometimes I get little glimpses of the sparring feeling when I am in a verbal conflict and I know I am on to something!
It feels so much more honest and engaging and less personal. I also find that I blame the other person a lot less. I am more interested in what I am doing and how I can change up my responses……much like I do in the ring.
So, as I head into a family visit for the holiday, I am going to keep this sharing punches idea in mind and can’t wait to see how things transpire!
Best wishes to all of you as you head into your holiday and remember to share some punches!