I received an interesting email that, among other things, commented upon what the reader had learned about conflict resolution on my blog. The reader was referring to a succession of conversations I had been having in the comments with another reader. Because of the relationship I have built with reader I was debating (for lack of a better word), I never thought about our conversations as being “conflicts,” but I can see how others reading our conversations could perceive them as such.
This got me thinking about a very important part of healing from child abuse – learning that it is OK to disagree with someone without that disagreement harming the relationship. That will be the focus of this blog entry.
My sister knew that I was going through a rough time in my offline life, so she gave me a “heads up” when she read one of the comments this reader had posted. She was concerned that the disagreement would be triggering or upsetting to me in light of what else was going on in my life at the time. As soon as I ascertained who the reader was, I assured my sister that I was completely OK – that this reader and I have these types of conversations periodically and that they don’t upset me. Why? Because this reader and I have developed a relationship over the years in which I trust that we can completely disagree on a topic without undermining the online friendship we have developed. I know that this reader respects me and “gets” me – knows that my heart is in the right place even when my words miss the mark.
This is a lesson it took me a long time to learn – that it is OK to disagree … and even vehemently disagree – with another person without losing the relationship. For most of my life, I tried to be what the other person wanted me to be because I feared I would lose the relationship if I did not. Two things have changed since then: (1) I have confidence that I will be OK no matter what relationship I might lose; and (2) I now recognize that a healthy relationship has room for me to mess up or simply disagree.
Now, this reader and I have never met face-to-face, but this same concept is developing in my offline relationships as well. I am gradually learning that healthy relationships provide room for me to be me, even when the other person disagrees with something that I might say or do.
I also must confess that developing relationships that provide room for disagreement are actually kind of fun! It’s draining to have to read the other person and always be what the other person wants you to be. For me, it is an exciting new world to be able to debate an issue with another person without having to worry about hard feelings. It’s empowering to be able to discuss issues and disagree, knowing that both parties’ respect is not going to disappear just because they don’t see eye-to-eye on an issue.
Photo credit: Hekatekris