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Getting to know people {I mean, really know them} and letting them know us {again, I mean really} requires finding our way around a few blind spots and any number of self-protective barricades. Theirs and ours. Unless, of course, we’d like to consider trading our usual defense tactics for something a little more disarming.

Interesting isn’t it…that we tend to use military terms when talking about human interactions? Lower your shields, pick your battles, call a truce, stick to your guns, take the first shot, bring out the big guns, send reinforcements, etc. Many of us are stuck in a chronic state of defense…fully armored, shields up, weapons raised. And if we’re going to demilitarize our relationships, we would do well to begin by laying aside such combative-sounding analogies.

In the context of war, disarming involves giving up weapons and rendering something incapable of doing damage. In human interactions, the connotation has more to do with allaying suspicion, criticism, or hostility; winning people over; and thawing tense situations with a warm, genuine, conciliatory manner. You know the type. Able to bring down walls with a single smile, restore calm with a well-timed word, and deactivate emotional landmines with their winning ways. They catch you so off guard, you completely forget to rearm yourself, winning half the battle by simply shifting from fighting against each other to fighting together for something you both want.

Personal disarmament is the act of standing undefended, and sharing the feelings (usually fear or pain) that underlie our anger and impulses to protect ourselves with aggression or defensive maneuvers. Regardless of how others respond, undefended communication is a transformative gift to ourselves and others. It may feel risky to be the one to offer the olive branch, but when you consider the risks of remaining on the defensive with the people who mean the most to us, the cost is just too high. {Ask anybody who has learned this the hard way, and I’m sure they’d be more than happy to share some words of hard-won wisdom.}

So…if anybody out there is considering raising the white flag to become allies instead of combatants, there’s no time like the present. It may take some time — bringing down walls often does — but a good place to start is admitting just how lonely you are behind all that armor. Allowing others access to the honest fears and longings that lie behind our breastplates is one of the most courageous things I can think of…and those brave enough to try it will find that it has a wonderful way of catching people off guard…with the most disarming effects.

Love Julie