Whether you're single or in a relationship, these five steps can easily de-escalate a disagreement before it gets out of hand.
1. PAY ATTENTION
Seriously, guys - I know you've been in an argument when you're rolling your eyes or darting them around the room, you're leaning away from your partner/fellow disagreement-er (totally a word!), maybe you're totally zoned out, thinking about what happened at work to distract you from what is coming out of the mouth of the other person. OR, maybe you're committing the ultimate sin.... You're only listening to REACT, to reply to what the other is saying, and your mind is already FULL of what you're about to say back! NO! Or.... If you're like me... *GULP*.... You're a serial interrupter. I am. I know it! *Runs and hides*
So, instead - when your partner comes to you with an issue, or you're in an environment with someone who has a concern, PAY ATTENTION. It really is that simple. Make use of your body - nod when they speak, lean in toward them, assume an 'I'm listening' position.
Most importantly - REPEAT what they've said back to you. Not only does this show the other party that you seriously were listening attentively (you didn't just look like it), BUT you're able to check whether you are able to understand them right, before you respond. Which makes your partner/other party feel GOOOOOD.
2. REACT vs. RESPOND
OK, hands up if you know that there is a MASSIVE difference between responding and reacting. Reacting is generally a more aggressive state - defensive, ego-driven and righteous - mostly with an intention to prove your point, to prove how right you are. It usually sounds like, "Yeah well YOU....... No I didn't!!!!........ Whatever, you said............" Etc. It is anger, fire, and flames. It is the quickest action that we do - it is the emotion that fires us.
Now, responding, on the other hand - this means to take into account what the other person has said. It means to take note of the way the other person is feeling, to maintain a calm state. More than anything, it means to be mindful. It means to take a moment before you reply, to take a breath and allow the feelings that would normally propel you to REACT.... allow them to simply wash over you. They don't need to hang around. It can become fun to watch the reaction just move away. I think it is important to mention here that usually only Buddha MASTERS can get this technique down to one second or less.... For the rest of us plebs, we may need to remove ourselves from the room for a few minutes or even hours! My partner is really good at taking timeouts when he needs them. Or I'm just really good at interrupting him.... HMMM....
3. LIVE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT
For goodness sake - if you want to take the argument from a 3/10 to a 29842984/10, just bring up the past. You know, "Well, last time you said X Y Z!!", "Well, it didn't stop you last time!"..... Bringing up the past is like pouring gasoline (petrol?) onto an already lit fire. It isn't helpful in calming the situation down.
Rest easy knowing that bringing up the past is actually a natural thing to do - especially when you feel like you might be losing the argument, as then you've got factual proof. But - we're good people - so we know that there is no win/lose in an argument, RIGHT?
The best thing to do is to simply ask for what you need from your partner/from the other party right then in THAT moment - the present. Based on the PRESENT circumstances. Yes, I know that he/she has already said they would/could/wouldn't. But I will literally give you $10 right now if you can honestly tell me that you've NEVER not followed up on something you said you would do better/not at all etc.
So remember - the PRESENT moment is what matters. What do you need from the other person, right now?
4. BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS
I feel like I might need a whole new blog post on this one, as it is REALLY hard (I know! It has taken me FOREVER to learn this, and sometimes I STILL don't act from this place). But guys, here's the honest truth. If someone is coming at you, chances are, you've probably done something that has upset them. Now, it might not at ALL have been on purpose - or perhaps something that you're even aware of - but please understand this really important Universal Truth.
If something is important to someone, it doesn't mean it has to be important to you to matter.
Oops, I haven't finished this post, sorry - a little premature.
Seriously though - We don't get to dictate whether we've hurt another or not. If they're saying we have, we most likely have - whether it was intentional or not.
So when your partner/the other person explains to you what you've done that has hurt them, try not to act from ego by denying it. Instead, try to act from love. Even if you don't understand what the hell they're bloody on about.
Try things like, "Ok, I understand why that might have hurt you", or, "I can see why you could have seen it that way", or, "I hear you, I would feel the same way if that had happened to me like that".
I can almost guarantee that you can very QUICKLY calm an argument (especially with us feminine creatures), simply by taking responsibility for what you may have done - you might not understand the how, but you understand that someone you care about is hurting because of something you've done (on purpose or not), and you don't want that to be the case anymore.
5. I THINK, I FEEL, I NEED
This is a great little technique that I learned while I did counselling in Hoedspruit.
When you're faced with approaching someone that might have hurt you, follow the simple ITIFIK steps, and you'll be able to clearly communicate how you're feeling.
By using 'I' statements, instead of you (I will give examples below), you remove the need for ego or defensiveness from the other person.
I think that how you treated me at dinner infront of our friends wasn't very nice. I felt a little disrespected, and I need to know that you didn't mean what you said."
Also, you can't use it like this:
"I think you're a dickhead, you made me feel like shit, and I need you to own up and see!!!!"
Because... well... Just no.
Just a quick little bonus here, that I learned first hand....
Never say always. Never say never. Never make it a thing that someone does ALL THE TIME.
"You always do this! You're ALWAYS being X. You NEVER X. You're a X ALL THE TIME!!!!"
Because honestly, that just discredits the other person. Yeah, they might have made a mistake... But are they truly always making a mistake? Are they truly always acting in a manner that you don't enjoy? Is there really no time that they are NOT being that way....?
Just a little point to ponder.
Lots of love,
and fairy dust,
Let us get your argument navigating skills into a better place. Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org