Detente was a term that I learned studying international politics in school. At the time, the Cold War was still alive and well between the United States and the Soviet Union [some of my Poli Sci cronies would say it’s creeping back that way now with Russia].
The term referred to the two nations’ governments making adjustment to their policies toward one another, reciprocated overtures intended to reduce direct tensions in the simmering conflict that had existed since 1945. At the time the two countries were armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons and were in the midst of a second proxy war vying for influence and control against the other.
The predominate strategy that was employed by both sides to deter the other from military aggression was “Mutually Assured Destruction.” At some point someone got the bright idea that this wasn’t an endlessly sustainable end-game, and thought it was a good idea to try to improve relations, rather than simply deter the other.
There’s a good underlying lesson tucked into that term: If you’re in conflict with someone, it’s a good idea to ease off a little, when you’re ready to improve relations.
Whether it be between spouses, parents and children, partners, relatives, co-workers, classmates, friends, or countries: Taking a step back to pause, refresh, and restart is a good relationship strategy.
Conflict is part of life. This is especially true with our human species, being so reliant on one another and being increasingly connected and living closer together. Conflict can be relationship-ending for sure, but more often than not, I would suggest it’s just part of working and living with other people.
Few of us are in a position in our profession or life that we don’t have to interact with others. Thus, there is an inevitable opportunity for conflict to manifest. This is a reality we all face. It’s how we deal with the situation, how we respond, that makes all the difference in the outcome.
I can think of three recent conflicts I’ve had of late with different people in my own world. Only when I took a step back to pause, let some time pass, and reset my approach did things get better. The improved result manifested through a combination of emotion and perspective fermenting some, maturing to a place with more depth, meaning, and thus understanding.
Give it a try. You might be surprised at how things turn out.