If you’re upset and your heart is pumping like crazy, you won’t hear anything your spouse is saying, no matter how hard your spouse tries. It’s impossible to have good conversations like this.
That’s because once the amygdala—the unconscious part of your brain responsible for the fight or flight response—is set off, there can’t be any meaningful conversation until you calm down.
Your brain simply needs some time to reset (and it has been scientifically proven that men need even more time than women). When you are calm, and your conscious mind steps in. It’s then that you can retake control of your brain. After the amygdala has been set off, our brain needs a “reset” so we can start thinking clearly again.
How to Reset Your Brain
There are two quick ways to reset your brain.
- Moving your body (going for a walk, mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, going to the gym) is a great way to keep your brain occupied with something else until you calm down.
- Another way is (you guessed it) sleeping on it!
By saying that, I don’t mean you should ignore an issue.
In fact, even the happiest couples will go to sleep while they’re still fuming over a fight, says Shaunti Feldhahn, social researcher and author of The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference.
Trying to force a resolution can lead to you saying words you could regret in the morning.
Of the 1,000 couples she talked to, the partners who rated their marriages the happiest were eight times less likely than those with unhappier relationships to pretend the fight had never happened when they woke up.
Don’t Push for an Immediate Solution
There is no rule saying that you have to solve problems right away. According to Bonnie Eaker Weil, Ph.D., author of Make Up, Don’t Break Up, going to bed angry—in other words, waiting until the next day to resolve a fight—is actually a very good way to maintain and strengthen your bond.
Because nasty fights are just that—nasty. They get nasty because we let our amygdala (which is very sensitive to even the slightest hint of an endangered self-worth) mess with us. That builds resentment and negative thoughts.
New Perspectives Arise at Night
Let’s be practical. Aside from our natural inclination to get even and say what we have to say right away, we all know that nothing much will happen if we (politely) take the time to think about it. That is true especially if things got a little bit overheated.
So do yourself a favor. Sleep on it.
Allow your subconscious to examine the different points of view. For that to happen, our brains need some time, and then they will do this automatically. Who knows, maybe in the process you will get a great idea for a win-win solution.
I Promise To Get Back To You Tomorrow
In nine out of ten cases I have found it to be VERY beneficial for my wife and I when one of us says something along the lines of …
“Look, it’s not that I don’t want to talk about it. It’s just that I’m still too upset right now to talk. But I promise to get back to you tomorrow. Is right after dinner okay for you?”
The next day you will almost surely not feel as strongly about the problem as the previous evening. New thoughts and new perspectives about the issue will emerge. On top of that, you’ll be much calmer. That’s the state of mind we are looking for.
QUESTION: How about you? What is your approach? You can leave a comment by clicking here.