Last night @jasondoesstuff and I found ourselves in conversation with two strangers at a wine bar over a shared bowl of parmesan popcorn (classic Thursday night.) During our conversation, one of the ladies said something that stopped me in my tracks: “Conflict between two healthy people should bring you closer, not further apart.” I sat and thought about how true that was for a sec, and it got me thinking a lot about communication. While I try my very best to navigate my friendships and relationships with honesty and grace, the one place that I know I falter is in my defensiveness. When I begin to hear words that have the potential to hurt me — true as they may be — it’s like my missile defense shields are activated and I'm ready to protect at all costs, even if it means it’s impossible to receive whatever truth there is to be told.
This thought was still fresh as I watched The Biggest Loser before bed (anyone else cry every episode?) and one of the trainers, Dolvett, was confronted by his team. Instead of defending his training style or boasting about how many seasons he'd been on the show or telling them they were wrong, he simply and sincerely said, “I’m sorry.” He let them know he appreciated their honesty and that he would try to take their feedback to heart. It sounds strange, but it was beautiful to watch. Something that could have been a conflict or a stand-off turned into an opportunity to grow closer, just like that quote from my wise popcorn-sharing stranger.
So here’s a question worth pondering the next time someone comes to you with hard-to-swallow but lovingly honest truth: Are you proving to that someone that they can honest with you? That you can truly *hear* them, with your defenses dropped and your heart open? Because when we’re not too busy protecting ourselves at all costs, we actually have the opportunity to use conflict as a tool to grow.