Journaling Through An Argument.

It sounds odd but hear me out.

Historically, during frustrating arguments or heated disagreements I’ve done one or all of the following:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Photo by Jan Kahánek

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.

=)

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