When it comes to my personal life, I generally only get involved in heated arguments or disagreements with people I love. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive. But really, if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t put in any effort in trying to get someone to, at the very least, understand and agree to disagree with my point of view. In writing this, it dawned on me that disagreements are actually the best opportunity to build trust and understanding.
Disagreements are scary. When we express our unhappiness with the people we love, we’re taking a risk. What if they like us a little less because of our beliefs/thoughts/opinions? What if their impression of us changes for the worse? What if, by being vulnerable, by putting our pride in their hands, they stomp all over it? When the risk pays off, it’s fantastic. When it doesn’t, it’s usually because of how we manage conflict.
When the people we love don’t immediately understand us or take the opportunity to point out our flaws, we get upset because, dammit, if they who love us don’t accept us, who else will? (Answer: You. But that’s a whole other topic on self-love) Then we get insecure because the guilt and/or shame that comes with being put on the spot is never pleasant. Pride (that pesky little thing) gets in the way and we start to take things more personally than we should.
In order to salvage our pride, we end up saying horrible things that we may not really mean. Or! We say nothing at all and enter into a cold war, expecting our loved ones to master the art of mind-reading in order to find out why we’re mad at them.
Pride stops us from realising that, depending on how you win an argument, it’s never a win if both parties end up feeling hurt, ignored and utterly disrespected.
Take, for example, this conversation:
A: “You were right. If we had walked instead of taking a cab, we wouldn’t have gotten stuck in that jam.”
B: “It’s your fault. I told you so many times we should have just taken a cab.”
A: “I know I was wrong! I just apologised, right? Why can’t you just let it go?”
B: “Because now we’re late! All because you refused to listen! Plus, why must I let it go? Do YOU ever let things go? The other time, we argued for hours even after I apologised for buying the wrong present for your sister. So why must I let it go now?”
Sound familiar? I’m sure we’ve all been part of such arguments before. Wounded pride hinders us from properly resolving issues. The urge to give someone “a taste of their own medicine” is terribly hard to resist. Especially when the other party isn’t making an effort to understand us at all!
The thing is, the whole tit-for-tat nature of conflict management results in layers and layers of hurt feelings and tension that will, in one way or another, alter the relationship.
On top of all that, living in an Asian society makes us feel that pride is everything and that we ought to avoid being vulnerable at all costs. We cultivate a habit of clamming up and lashing out instead of opening up and embracing one another. We feel like we can’t trust people with our emotions.
Luckily, that’s not true.
When there is real love (in any kind of relationship), people DO take our feelings into account. And when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and consciously put our pride in someone else’s hands, it’s a show of trust. And when people see that, they will respect and protect it (unless they really just have a nasty core and being 100% authentic may compromise your wellbeing). It doesn’t mean that they’ll mollycoddle or baby us but they won’t try to intentionally hurt us out of spite or be needlessly sarcastic either.
They’ll show us that with love, patience and respect, we can collectively go against the evolutionary instinct of always being top dog in every argument. They’ll show us how to have constructive and decent conversations that actually serve to resolve or lessen our conflicts. After all, conflict will always be a part of life simply because two people will never have exactly the same views on everything. They’ll show us how to trust, reciprocate and model such behaviour ourselves – so that we become ambassadors of love, too.
If no one in your life treats you with the respect you deserve, they might be toxic for you. But if you don’t treat people with the respect they deserve, you might be the toxic one. With enough mutual respect and love, we can all start managing our conflicts a little better. And perhaps it starts with showing the people we love that their pride, their emotions, their fears, their vulnerabilities – their heart – is ALWAYS safe in our hands, even and especially in the face of conflict.