Relationship Rescue Tip:
How to deescalate an argument.
- In the heat of an argument, things can quickly escalate and a lot of unnecessary damage to your relationship can happen - sometimes in a matter of seconds or minutes. Learning how to take effective time outs is essential to managing these types of arguments. Time outs allow each individual in the partnership to settle their nervous system and process from a settled, rather than triggered, place.
- Did you know that when you have an argument with your partner your nervous system gets activated, your amygdala takes over, (think flight, freeze, fight) and your frontal cortex, or the reasoning part of the brain, goes offline? This prevents you from rationally thinking, hearing or speaking clearly. Not much good is likely to happen when you are both operating from this very old hardwired part of the brain that is designed for survival.
- Try looking around at your surroundings (orienting) and breathing slowly to settle your nervous system. Notice the space you're in... What colors do you see? Where are your eyes drawn to look? What sounds do you hear? Is your breathe in your belly or chest? Place your hand on your lower belly and breathe into it. Feel your feet on the ground if standing, and if seated, focus on the support of the chair underneath you. If you can, perhaps you may even invite an ever-so slight smile to appear, as this signals to your nervous system that you are safe and that it can settle.
- Take a time out. It may take 20 minutes, sometimes even an hour, for your nervous system to fully calm down. Quietly allow the time for this to happen before you and your partner reengage in discussion. Try to avoid distractions like social media and TV during this time. Also do not ruminate on the fight or what you think your partner did wrong. Just breathe and focus on the here and now.
- Once you are both calm, check in with one another. Only move into a repair conversation once you are both settled. If either partner's nervous system gets activated again, take another time-out until you can get through the repair talk and resolve the issue.
- Try this next time you're in an argument with a loved one and take a time out. It may even save your relationship.
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