Choose your battles wisely are the very wise words spoken by my Mother to me as a child, they still echo in my mind today. It’s perfectly normal for the love of your life who brings so many amazing things into your life, to be as equally irritating. The key word in my Mother’s statement is ‘choose’, not be tossed around like a sail boat in a squall and react to every potential argument. How you react to every situation in life is a choice, you can choose to be constantly ruled by your emotions and loose it every time you are upset or you can take control. I have to admit, I am a very passionate person and I have been known to get a little heated in the moment which leads me to say things that I sometimes regret, moments after an argument ends. Over time, I have learned to take control of my emotions during those moments by paying careful attention to my emotional trigger points. Embarking upon this process, has allowed me to choose my battles more wisely as a result, this approach has allowed me to build more understanding and intimacy within my relationships. Having arguments within relationships is perfectly healthy but leaving emotions and negative feelings unchecked can lead to huge arguments which can potentially have a detrimental effect, upon the bond we share with our partner.
1. Keep things in perspective.
The person you love must come first, above ego, opinion or the need to be right. Arguments are not unanticipated, and we do not react instantaneously, pay attention to your emotions and don’t allow them to flow rampant; are you really angry about the garbage not being taken out or is there a deeper emotional issue at play? Refrain from discussing issues in the heat of the moment, retreat and come back when you are feeling more rational and in control of your thoughts and feelings. This may seem like a joke but sometimes it’s better to walk away and appear a little inconsiderate, then to say something harsh to someone you love. Your brain holds on to negative situations, words and emotions as an attempt to protect and avoid similar situations in the future, and your partner will innately be reacting synonymously. Instead of patching up a relationship that is scared by an emotional trauma, preventing a potentially toxic altercation has a more positive impact long term. I certainly do not always get this right, and the moments I have failed are the result of not following my advice by choosing to stay and argue when I should have walked away to gather my thoughts.
2. Chose your words carefully.
The most important element of conflict resolution is the words we choose. Words uttered in the heat of the moment can often be pointed and penetrating; remember, it’s not a gladiator match, stick to the issue at hand, avoid bringing up past sins and criticising character. It’s crucial to separate character and behaviour, character is who someone is and the qualities they possess whereas behaviour appertains to the decisions and actions of an individual. It’s important to address behavioural issues in a manner that excludes the usage of absolutes such as always or never. Be specific and keep the conversation to the present issue, avoid bringing up past behaviours, it’s not a trial.
3. The right time and place.
In consideration of choosing our words carefully, it is equally important to choose the right time and place for an argument. Do not allow your fights to occur or continue in front of an audience. An argument should remain private and both people involved should be able to feel safe and express themselves free within reason without the added pressure and opinions that an audience can often bring. Do not go to bed, while you are both arguing, avoid letting things drag on, not every fight is a disaster of apocalyptic proportions; the aim of a fight should always be a deeper understanding and resolution, not to insult, control or win.
4. Retreat with dignity.
As the very wise DR Phil once said, ‘How you argue, especially how you end an argument, can determine the long-term success or failure of your relationship.’ Over time, I have discovered the truth to this statement and the value of being alert and attentive. Pay attention to your partners attempts to wave a metaphorical olive branch, this usually comes in the form of an apology or even an ill-timed joke. I once had a partner through in a joke as an attempt to defuse an argument. In that moment, the situation had become too emotional and heated as a consequence he felt uncomfortable and wanted to establish a quick exit. If I didn’t allow my former partner to preserve his dignity by backing out, I could have potentially created an opportunity for resentment to build up and drive a wedge between us. It’s not about being right or having circumstances go your way; use arguments as a catalyst to usher in a greater level of understanding and intimacy.
Conflict resolution is crucial to the health of a relationship, what we say and allow to occur during these moments of conflict, can have a lasting effect upon our relationships. The key to healthy conflict resolution is to be actively seeking a solution by keeping things in perspective, choosing your words carefully, arguing at the right time and place and allow your partner to retreat with dignity. Do you agree? Let me know by using the comments box below. I’d love to hear from you.
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