Have you ever had an argument with someone and at the end you do not remember why or how you started arguing in the first place? Ever said or done things in those moments that you regret? That is quite common when we get dysregulated.
When we are dysregulated, it can be challenging to effectively communicate with one another. We struggle to implement two important ingredients of communication--listening to understand +responding to clarify the needs of the other individual. This requires the high level thinking part of our brain (the neocortex) to be accessible and engaged. However, when we are frustrated & operate from a dysregulated state, we respond from the lower parts of our brain. The parts of our brain that are not as smart as our neocortex. We become more reactive in our responses and effective two-way communication goes out the window and we start to focus on "winning" the argument instead of understanding another's perspective.
This then leads to misreading the conversation, the nonverbal cues and the argument intensifies. A simple argument becomes a really intense fight. Now I am focused on winning over the importance of the connected relationship. I move into that state of mind where "I win, you lose" instead of being focused on "we both win."
Ever been there?! Want to change that struggle?
Here are a few simple strategies to help improve your fighting techniques. Yes...we need to improve how to fight.
Create a code word or phrase for you to call a "time out" when you are becoming upset and dysregulated. Create the expectations of what this looks like during a time when you are calm. Things to clarify, where will each of you go during this "Cool Off & Wait to re-connect" plan? What do you need in those times you are frustrated? How long will you need to cool off? How will you know when the two of you are ready to re-engage in the conversation? This can also be done when you recognize the other individual is showing signs of dysregulation. Calling a "timeout" can help prevent us from moving a hard discussion into a screaming match. (We will discuss strategies for our Cool off & wait to reconnect plans in another blog).
Respond with empathy & compassion instead of correction and authority. This helps us move from a I win, you lose mentality to a "we both win" mindset. When we start to become dysregulated, the reasoning part of our brain is compromised and we need to connect with the part of the brain that is engaged and getting disorganized--the limbic system. Focus on connecting with the individual and what emotions they are expressing.
Listen with the goal of hearing, instead of listening with the goal of responding. Many times arguments intensify because we fail to listen to what is being said because we are too busy trying to think of our powerful comeback. By simply trying to understand the other's perspective, it allows us a chance to move away from the "I win, you lose" mindset. This can be done by reflecting back what you hear.
Avoid labeling behaviors. "why do you have to act so crazy." "Why do you freakout & make such a big deal over things like this?" "If you'd actually listen to me, you'd understand why this is a big deal." Labeling is like pouring gasoline to small flame.
Leave out the "always" and "never" statements. It is really easy in those moments to throw out extreme statements such as "you always do this." or "You never listen to me." These statements often throw us off of the original topic and we begin fighting about those statements and never get anywhere with the original discussion.
Moving towards that place of understanding is not going to be easy. It is going to require a lot of work--FROM BOTH PARTIES, but the more you practice, the easier it will be! Winning sure does feel good in the moment. But I want to challenge us all to think of how good it feels when you both win. I have to wonder, what kind of relationships will we create if we work hard to chase after those kinds of WINS!?