It sounds odd but hear me out.
Historically, during frustrating arguments or heated disagreements I’ve done one or all of the following:
- Clam up. Much like a roly poly, if poked in the right way at the right time, I’ll turn inward, clam up and zip up. My brain sort of just shuts down. Not good.
- Gotten defensive & word-vomity. I snap into defensive mode and without thinking, start doling out comments that I may not even mean. As the words fly out of my mouth, I’ll think “where is THIS coming from?!” or “I don’t think that’s even true!” I get overwhelmed and kinda go haywire. Not good.
- Taken forever to bounce back. After arguments or heated exchanges, it can take a loooong time for me to process everything, want to open up again, and/or apologize. Also… not good!
I’ve made it a personal goal this last year to improve myself in this area. I’m an intelligent woman and I should be able to clearly [and calmly] state how I feel & what I think during a disagreement. I don’t want to stay silent and I do not want to say things I don’t really mean. Finally, I want to be able to open up to the other person afterward with a clear head and understanding.
So, as is my answer to almost everything, I’ve started journaling through it all.
No, I don’t pick up my journal in the middle of an argument. I pick it up after the other party and I go to our separate corners.
My aim with this is to teach myself how to think clearly and thoroughly while feeling angry or frustrated. Also, I always strive to examine things from all sides, so asking myself the following questions allows me to do that more easily.
- What is it that’s making you angry/frustrated at this very moment?
- What point were you trying to make before?
- Do you truly believe in what you were fighting for? WHY do you believe it?
- Do you have any idea why [the other person] feels the way they feel about this? Can you think of reasons they believe what they believe?
- Pretend you are the other person. What do you think about the way that YOU are behaving? What do you think about the things that you are saying?
- Do you feel frustrated that their view is different than yours? Why? Is there room for both?
- Does your anger stem from something deeper, or is it JUST about this? What else could this possibly be about?
- How is all of this making you feel physically? Are you tensing up in any areas?
- Do you truly feel that any of this worth getting heated over?
After I’ve answered some or all of those questions, I feel a bit calmer and my mind feels less chaotic. I have a better understanding of what it is I’m fighting for and why my emotions are so attached to it. Lastly, and sometimes most importantly, I have given myself space to see and hopefully understand the other person’s perspective.
My ultimate goal is to get to a point where I can automatically ask myself these questions internally while I’m engaged with someone. For now, this practice is teaching me a lot.