Who among us enjoys having arguments? Not me, not anyone I imagine. However, unfortunately, they are part of the human condition. To fight is part of human nature. We can’t escape that fact. Arguments whether at home or at work often follow the same pattern. The tension starts to rise, responses start to get personal, and you go around in circles without getting anywhere. Even though we don’t like arguments it is easy to get caught up in them and when we do we lose sight of the bigger the picture. The solution.
Recently in our social circle, there have been a lot of minor conflicts. The sort that can really spiral out of control, get ugly and break up friendships. At first, Mr. T and I got drawn in. Our emotional buttons were pressed and it got personal really quickly. Luckily we caught ourselves in the spiral and through openly dialoguing together we managed to stop the destructive argument spiral and fast track to creating a solution and end the argument. The result? A slightly shaken friendship, which still exists, an agreed-upon way forward and no major wounds on both sides.
As we went through this process it seemed to reflect in our wider world and we noticed both my clients and even our family members were struggling with arguments and conflicts. Each case had two common elements:
- Personality and values clashing
- A breakdown in communication due to emotional triggers
Basically, everyone was fighting from an emotional standpoint, not a rational logical approach. Everyone was taking it personally which no-one could think rationally. And if you can’t think rationally then the solution will always seem impossible.
So how do you fast track to a solution and get out of the destructive argument spiral when your buttons get pressed? The answer is simply by a little personal reflection and mature action you can from A to C and avoids B (the bolloxs) relatively quickly.
When you get into an argument and you can feel it is starting to get out of control the most important thing you can do is to stop. Take a step back and breathe. In an argument situation, your blood pressure rises, your breathing and heartbeat increases and your body fills with stress hormones. The fight and flight mechanism kicks in and messes with your immune system. Not to mention your whole body goes tense, neck, back, and shoulders, as well as your teeth, get clenched. Needless to say that in order to think rationally you need to retake charge of your body and calm it down. And this takes time. Give yourself at least 15 minutes to calm down so you can move from the fight into solution.
What buttons are being pressed?
Now you’ re feeling calmer have a look at what buttons are being pressed. When Mr. T and I were in the argument with our friend we looked at how the situation was affecting us emotionally. We investigated which of our previous dramas were being activated. For example, in our situation for Mr. T, his honor was being called into question. The reason this provoked him was due to an incident from his childhood, so he was reacting to that. So what drama, insecurity is this provoking in you?
And most importantly is it real? Does the person you are arguing with really think you are an idiot, or is it your insecurities that tell you that you are stupid and this person is triggering that in some way?
Which of your values is being tested?
Now it is important to look at your moral standpoint and see which of your core beliefs are being (for want of a better word) attacked? What is the line being crossed? Can you see from the argument where your values and the other person’s values are opposed? What could be the acceptable compromise for you?
What is this person reflecting to you?
In life, other people are our emotional mirrors. We send out a reflection and people unconsciously respond to the at the reflection and send out their own. This is most clearly obvious with someone we dislike. When we dislike something about someone else it is actually because they are reflecting a picture of something we dislike in ourselves. You cannot ever do something about someone else behavior however you can change your own. If you don’t like what this other person is reflecting then change it in you. Also by using this technique, you can see what you are triggering in the other person. Think about what would you need and how you would like to be treated in this situation and handle them accordingly.
Look at the communication style
How have they and you been communicating? Defensively or openly? Are they, or you, throwing insults? Or have they or you been attacking? Is it possible you or they have miscommunicated? Have you been clear enough? If a person is constantly attacking you in an argument, that is their stuff. You can’t do much about it however you can not respond. Feeding anger will just start another spiral. Decide how you want to communicate with them. Look again at what you want to reflect.
Choose how to move forward
Now before you rejoin the conversation decide how you want to move forward. What is the outcome you want and where is there room for compromise? Do you have anything you feel you should apologise for? Plan your conversation. Often argument resolution is best in a written format, that way you can double check what you have written and remove potential triggers. Moving forward means acknowledging the damage, showing the other person you have heard their opinion and focusing on the solution. As much as possible removing the emotion from your response. If you can’t write your response then I would recommend noting down a few bullet points to help keep you focused.
Don’t feed the fire
Now while you have been doing this reflection it could be that the person you are arguing with has worked themselves up into a frenzy and is ready for round 2. It is your responsibility to not feed the fire. An argument can only continue if two people want the conflict. You want a solution so stick to that. Make your suggestion for a solution in a respect and calm way. If the other person responds by attacking step out of the dialogue. Keep an eye on what you are reflecting out to the other person. Are you showing them how you would like to be treated? Above all maintain your dignity. To feel peaceful about the conflict you need to come away knowing that you have acted in the best way possible and feel proud of yourself.
Arguments are never an easy part of life. By using these techniques you are taking responsibility for your actions and for finding the solutions. It can take a while to learn (I am by no means a master..yet). However once mastered you will find that conflict and arguments become minimal in your life and above all you can feel proud of yourself knowing that you have done your best to make amends and move forward. And that my friends is half the battle
Have a great week <3