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Updated: May 9, 2023

While engaging in communication that involves attempting to resolve a crisis- inevitable arguments, instances of disagreement or instances of not being able to have the other individual understand one’s own point of view, can occur. Sometimes one may feel helpless, not heard or simply misinterpreted and misunderstood. This often occurs when what we are feeling takes over our interaction. So as opposed to the words in the conversation, we wind up responding to the tone or the volume or the sarcasm instilled in them. From time to time this happens with all of us. We break out of it, clarify the misconceptions or simply forgive and forget.

However, if this becomes a recurrent pattern and conflicts are only breeding more hatred or feelings of wanting to end that relationships- then we know that previously held style of talking is just no longer working. Something needs to change!

Here are a few ways to get out of such a pattern if/when it becomes repetitive to the extent of only breeding hostility as opposed to a solution or harmony.

1. Break Out of It!

Break out of the angry and blaming reactionary loop! While thoughts about the past, poor choices, decisions by your significant other (spouse, parents, friend, partner etc.) may flood in, expressing them and reminding other individual of them will only maintain the anger & faulty decisions image. This will also prevent opportunities for new actions & supportive efforts.

Instead, holding back those thoughts & verbalising wishes & expectations as “ I wish you would “; “ I would feel (supported /calmer ) if you …. “ , “ I like it when you …” statements instead of “ why do you …” ; “ your always ………” statements . Also holding back on acting on those angry thoughts, example giving into hitting someone or breaking an item, verbalising thoughts such as “I am so angry, I want to break something” and requesting a time out is likely to prevent a ripple effect of current argument.

2. Recognize your own Emotion

Does the intensity of what you feel, match the intensity of the distressing situation or the topic at hand?

Are you recurrently feeling the same emotion even though the situation or people vary?

Is it the appropriate feeling? Example in instances of betrayal or loss it is appropriate to feel hurt and therefore sad, in instances of catastrophic or worrisome or unknown outcomes it is appropriate to feel scared or anxious, in instances where the situation is no longer in your control or not matching in expectations it is appropriate to feel frustrated, annoyed or angry.

Many times we end up feeling, and therefore verbally or behaviourally expressing, ourselves with anger when in actuality the situation may be corresponding with a different emotion.

Being aware of your feelings and if they are appropriate (even if they maybe negative feelings) is likely to bring more clarity of thought and help us check ourselves, our words, language, tone when we are communicating.

Therefore, using statements such as “I feel…when you…” “ I am so angry/disappointed/sad…” as opposed to “Why do you…” “Why me…” since the latter kind of statements are only likely to maintain the distress as opposed to bringing clarity in the situation.

3. Maintaining focus on current conflict / crisis!

Sometimes inevitable the reason why a current argument/conflict occurred becomes dismissed due to various reasons. These reasons could be backlog from previous arguments, instant flooding of memories of all things done wrong in the past. (Breaking out of it helps). Other reason could be becoming distracted by the tone or the behaviour of both parties in the conflict. Either way, the reason for the current crisis will remain unchecked or unresolved or likely to be brought up in a future conflict making it more severe. Thus, maintaining focus on what brought on this argument, what aspects of current situation are leading to the distress, can help in attaining closure for that moment. Often talking about the situation or the action of the person as opposed to focusing on each other helps. E.g.: “When you did this, it reminded me of that time, therefore I feel, I worry…” “Right now when this happened…” (Instead of “earlier also you did this..” “You always…”).

In doing so possible solutions (action oriented) for the same are likely to be generated as opposed to forming a causal line of past or unrelated events. Therefore distress for current situation must be resolved in the same content. Relating it to past /unrelated events will only maintain further distress & not lead to a solution. However if that does happen, then current conflict will have to be put on hold and a conversation about the past related events which are still maintaining the distress will need to be held.

4. Protect the Respect & Dignity of the other Individual!

This can be extremely difficult especially when all you want to do is attack, hurt or make the other individual feel the same kind of pain or humiliation that you might be going through. However, it is difficult to rationally hear one out when one is busy feeling defensive or offended. Simply put, You are likely to be better understood and heard when you are conveying what you feel and want as opposed to using harsh words labeling the other individual.

When you do feel angry, helpless or frustrated experiencing dissatisfying level of efforts from the other individual, such as your partner, spouse or parent, it is helpful to – remind yourself “besides being your spouse/friend/parent etc, they are humans too, and give them fair warning –“I’m feeling angry & experiencing angry thoughts about you” -instead of sharing the actual angry thought such as “you’re torturing me”, “you are @#$%%^” and so on. (Checking your own emotions help)

5. Maintaining the focus on Positive!

During instances of harmony, or absence of an argument or negative exchange, maintaining focus on positive actions or verbalization of the other individual increases chances of it occurring more frequently. It can be very challenging especially when you fear giving the other individual “another ego boost” or simply “don’t’ feel like saying anything nice” or “it’s just not there”. However, constant focus on what is going wrong, or what you dislike about the other individual is only going to maintain focus on those aspects, thereby inevitably giving it more significance and chances of remaining pervasive. Very simply put, whatever you may give attention to- positive or negative action- that may increase.

So albeit difficult, reminding oneself to focus on the positive is likely to make one’s situation more harmonious, even if not on that day, then most definitely in the future. Therefore, praise, verbalise and remind yourself and the other individual of the positive aspects of their behaviour and interaction with them as opposed to negative one. In fact, choosing to ignore (from time to time and not always) or not being expressive about the negative aspects leads to decreased chances of the same occurring in the future.

It is important to remember that if change is needed, then it is not only in the interaction pattern the change will enter. It is accompanied with feelings of awkwardness, feeling “weird” or “unnatural” and a constant asking of self-“why should I make the effort”. It is important to answer that question also. Are you worried about becoming the weaker individual, or are you worried it wont work, or it’s simply too much effort and not worth it? In either case, it will take an effort.

Now we decide which effort to take on- to cope with the repetitive pattern of conflict, or to make a way through it.

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