Something changed in me, in my dancing and in my goals, when I realized that the milonga experience was more important to me than my individual dance experience. When I decided that I was a part of a community, I couldn't just "take my ball and go home" if I didn't like something. I became committed, not just to tango, but to a group of people and experiences. I started looking for ways to have that "tango flow" milonga-bliss experience more consistently - paying more attention to the factors and actions (mine and others) that generated that feeling - and those factors that caused it to fall apart.
It's more than just "being the tango you want to see in the world". Because, let's face it - some dancers are exactly the tango they want to see in the world, and they're the ones kicking folks on the pista. When the experience of the community took priority over everything else, I became more aware of my effect on other dancers on the floor - the effect of my partner on other dancers - and their effect on me. I felt, and wanted to be, more responsible - and responsive. This was especially the case after I saw the effects of one poorly handled confrontation ripple out over the dancers who witnessed it.
One night I experienced two rough collisions. Both times it was another leader taking two (or more) steps backward against the line of dance. The first time, my leader let go of me, spun around and berated the dancer that backed into him. The other dancer was immediately defensive, both the other follower and I were mortified by the attention this exchange was generating and we tried to pull our partners back into the dance. My partner then asked if I was okay, and spent the better part of the tanda grousing about poor leading skills and bad floor craft. He said he needed to make an example of this kind of behavior. His point was more important to him than the relationships in the moment. I couldn't wait to sit down.
The second time, almost exactly the same circumstances resulted in a crash with a dancer that has a reputation for banging into people. This partner turned, still holding me in the crook of his right arm, asked if I was okay, then asked the other follower (and then the leader) if they were okay also, and emphasized to the other leader how important it was that we all look out for each other. The other leader stated bluntly that my partner needed to be more careful. To which my leader answered, we all need to be careful - especially when moving against the line of dance with one's back turned. He never got ugly - he kept his voice low and gentle. He never let go of me. Will that interaction change the behavior of the other leader? Very doubtful. But that conversation didn't cause an entire group of people to feel uncomfortable, either.
We're never going to eliminate collisions and the like from milongas. These things happen. We can only choose how we deal with them when they do happen. We all have different priorities and goals when we dance. Sometimes we have to choose what's more important - the point we're trying to make, or maintaining relationships that strengthen an entire community.
I get defensive too. Not everyone is interested in taking in the milonga as a whole. They're there to relax, and dance - and enjoy a more individual (well, coupled really) experience of music and movement. They'd rather not worry about the 30 dancers on the floor and their experience. It's not their problem. It's just another view of things. It's hard for me a good portion of the time to accept that and just let it be without trying to evangelize and rattle on about the "tango flow" and the beauty of a group of dancers moving together in respect for each other and the music. Okay, it's *very* hard.
My grandmother gave me a piece of advice years ago when I had spent an hour complaining that I just couldn't get my husband to see something-or-other my way. She just asked me, 'would you rather be right, or rather be happy?' Sometimes you don't get to have both. You can demonstrate your point - be the example of your point, but you can't make someone else agree with you.