Arguments are an unavoidable part of life, but they’re not always bad. Whether between a parent and child, two partners, or friends, heated discussions can be a proactive way to express your feelings and find solutions to your mutual problems.
But, if you often find your conflicts turn into screaming matches, you’re probably not seeing the benefits of them. When anger takes over, it’s time to work on regaining control over your emotions and becoming a calmer communicator.
To help, we’ve put together our top tips to help your stay collected during arguments.
Once you understand that conflict begins in the brain and has deep-rooted origins, it becomes easier to take charge of it.
Anger is instinctive. It’s a natural human response when you perceive something to be a threat, and it fuels your body to act aggressively. You’ll want to shout, slam the door, and throw anything that’s close to you. But this is an unconscious, biological response, and in that sense, it’s not necessarily ‘you’.
You may not want to get angry, and 9 times out of 10 you’ll feel guilty and embarrassed afterwards. This is because you’re allowing your base-level instincts to control your responses rather than your conscious mind. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
By becoming aware of your emotions and identifying when you’re having an angry response, you can learn to calm yourself down. This doesn’t mean ignoring the problem at hand, but it does mean controlling those aggressive impulses that begin to take over.
Sometimes, anger is a sign of a deeper problem. If you find yourself flaring up when you’re trying to remain calm or your anger frequently gets out of hand, some introspective work may be needed to find the root cause of your emotions.
Anger is often linked to anxiety, depression, and past trauma. These require professional expertise and we highly recommend you take steps to seek help, such as attending an anxiety treatment center or seeing a talking therapist. In the meantime, learn to control your anger with our tips.
As you become more aware of your emotions during arguments, create a scale of anger, where 0 is a zen-like state and 10 is the epitome of your emotional eruption. During an argument, be aware of your scale. Irritation might be a 1, annoyance is a 2, and 3 is the beginning of real anger.
When you reach 3, you might think you’re okay to carry on talking, but you shouldn’t. As soon as your annoyance begins to shift to anger, it’s time to walk away.
If you remain in the argument for longer – reaching a 4 or 5 on your scale – it becomes increasingly harder to leave. You’re then on a slippery slope toward that 10.
To ensure you can walk away, have a discussion with the people close to you and let them know your new method. Make sure they’re aware they can’t follow you if you leave, but that you will come back to continue the discussion once you’ve lowered your emotional scale back to a 0 or 1.
Anger and stress are closely linked, and if you can reduce one in an argument then the other will naturally come down, too. But, cooling off when you’re getting heated is notoriously difficult.
One method we suggest is finding something to laugh at. Plenty of studies have found that laughter improves the quality of life and reduces stress. This is all down to hormones, with laughter seeing increases in the happy hormones serotonin and dopamine, and reducing the stress hormone cortisol, which is rife during arguments.
When you’re feeling angry during an argument, take yourself away and do something that’ll make you laugh. That could be watching funny videos, thinking about something that you find humorous, or reading jokes.
If you can share this moment with the person you’re arguing with, do so! You’ll both feel calmer and clearer afterwards, all thanks to the power of hormones.
Breathing techniques are known to reduce stress, improve mindfulness, and help you think more clearly, all of which are highly beneficial when you’re in an argument.
When you’re angry and stressed, your breathing tends to be quicker and your heart rate increases. Slow, deep breathing is related to happiness and contentment. By emulating that breathing, you’ll stimulate your vagus nerve and trigger your rest and relaxation mode – as opposed to your fight or flight mode.
If you feel you’re moving up on your anger scale, take a moment out to breathe. It sounds simple, but it can help you step out of the moment and lower your heart rate, giving you space to collect your thoughts.
Try the SKY breathing practice – which has been proven to be effective at reducing stress – the next time you’re getting angry to force your body into a more relaxed state.
As we mentioned earlier, anger is a natural response that leads to instinctive aggression. In arguments, that often shows itself in the form of shouting. But, raising your voice only makes the argument worse.
One of the worst things about shouting is that it raises stress levels in the person you’re shouting at. They, in turn, perceive a threat and become aggressive in response. The argument is taken up a level, with both parties now heated, and there’s very little chance of any actual solution being reached.
Next time you’re in an argument, be conscious not to shout. If you begin to raise your voice, walk away until you’ve gained control of your emotions and can talk in a calm, controlled manner.
Staying calm during an argument isn’t easy. If you’re having difficulties communicating with someone in your life, be it a loved one, a friend, or even a business partner, it’s worth trying mediation. Hiring a professional to navigate your disagreement with you is a tried and tested way of keeping the conversation under control and diffusing angry outbursts.
Find out more about mediation at Mediate.com or search for mediators near you.