During the course of your daily life, you engage in several interactions with different people at different levels. Not all exchanges go the way you want them to go. You manage some situations better than others. There are many challenges when navigating these conversations that may start with a difference of opinion and end up in a conflict. And sometimes, these could lead to more conflict situations, uncomfortable silences, resentment, anger, frustration, and disengagement over time. The most difficult ones are those with your loved ones. How do you deal with these?
It’s often challenging to be empathetic and understanding when you are struggling to contain your disappointment that your loved one is not listening to you or agreeing with you. There’s more on this in the previous blog. But what can you do in the moment when things are getting heated, and you might be getting into a cycle of intense argument?
When you feel hurt or uncomfortable, your body starts to prepare you for a fight-flight-freeze response as if you are at risk. But there might not always be danger out there. It could be a thought, emotion or a memory that can feel threatening, your inner turmoil makes you uncomfortable. To feel better, you make an automatic response that might feel hurtful to your loved one. And when they respond similarly, it can start the cycle of conflict that can pull you in like a whirlpool. It feels like a losing battle. But this doesn’t have to be the only way to manage a heightened situation.
Your body and emotions need soothing, and you can give this to yourself. Others may or may not be able to ease your intense emotions, but you can always be there to hold space for your hurting parts. This is not easy, but you have the agency to make it work for you. You will be uncomfortable and may not be able to resolve the situation immediately. But you can consciously allow yourself to slow down and self-soothe by breaking down the process into the following steps:
Pause, acknowledge that you are feeling upset, disengage by intentionally using gentle words or at least neutral words, use techniques like deep breathing, going for a walk, listening to relaxing music, doing any light physical activity, having a cup of tea and allowing yourself the time and space you need before checking back in and re-engaging when ready. Take longer for a deeper conversation and give yourself permission to sit with the discomfort. You can do journaling – vocal or written – in the meantime. When you feel that you can listen to your partner’s perspective, approach with love and kindness. There are many sub-parts of this process, and it is the most effective when both partners engage in this process simultaneously.
Introduce this in your communications with the self and with the other. Replication and acceptance will help you.