Here’s the key to a good relationship. Well, not the only one, but one of the keys. Kind of a low hanging fruit, if you want.
Watch your loved one carefully. Really carefully. What do I mean?
Have you ever had a rush of energy after hearing a loud voice in the vicinity? Or when the person in front of you slams on their brakes?
That’s fight or flight at work.
The same happens when an argument becomes overheated. This is when your heart starts pounding and all the other physical stress reactions happen.
The consequences for communication are disastrous. Your ability to process information is reduced, and it’s ten times harder to pay attention to what your partner is saying.
One of the most apparent physical reactions to danger is that the attacked person’s heart speeds up dramatically. It pounds away at over 100 beats per minute, and goes as high as 165.
That’s more than double a normal blood pressure. Cortisol levels in your body rise dramatically.
In such a state, creative problem solving (as well as any potential win-win scenarios) go right out of the window. You’re left with the most reflexive and least intellectual responses in your repertoire: fight (show contempt, criticize, dispense sarcasm, ) or flee (stonewall).
Any chance of resolving the issue is gone. Most likely, the continuation of the discussion will just worsen matters.
Do you know the feeling?
When you’re upset, your amygdala—the ancient part of the brain that’s responsible for the fight or flight response—has taken over full control. Your body starts to produce vast quantities of adrenaline and you’re being flooded with cortisol.
When you see any of the signs of an emotional tornado coming, it’s super important for you stop the conversation and calm down.
Why would you want to do that?
There are three strong reasons why you want to pull the plug of the conversation if you get upset.
Let’s first tackle the more obvious two:
But there’s a third reason, and to my mind, it’s the most important one.
Back when our ancestors were chasing mammoths across the frozen tundra, cortisol was key to staying alive. Its role was to prepare the body to defend itself or get away.
That still is true today.
Except that nowadays, instead of running from a giant sabertooth tiger, we’re being almost exclusively chased by our own negative emotions. Unfortunately, our unconscious mind-–the amygdala—doesn’t know the difference.
So, when an argument becomes overheated, your first goal is to avoid saying or doing things you might later regret. The easiest way to do this is by using any of the below stop sentences:
After saying this, beware!
No further arguing, no comments, even at half volume. And no door slamming! Politely resist letting your spouse suck you back into an already heated conversation.
Admittedly, this takes quite a bit of self-discipline. But it pays off immensely.
After our amygdala has been set off, our brain simply needs some time to reboot. Different people need different amounts of time to calm down. Interestingly, it has been scientifically proven that men generally need more time than women.
Either way, don’t rush.
You can speed up the time needed to restart your brain by moving your body. I mean literally moving your legs and arms and doing something with them, not moving your fingers over the screen of your phone.
That’s because when you move, your brain releases neurochemicals called endorphins. They have a soothing effect on your mind and make you feel good.
Basically, do anything that makes your body move.
I wouldn’t suggest going shopping to calm down, (at least not every time) if you don’t want to anchor yourself into spending money every time you need to calm down. Because if you do that on a consistent basis, your brain will make the connection: angry–shopping–buying nice things for me–pleasure–let’s get angry some more!
QUESTION: What is your best practice for dealing with moments when things get overheated? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
If you’re rolling your eyes at your partner, and you do that regularly, we already know you’re going to divorce. What?!?
Dr. John Gottman and University of California, Berkeley psychologist Robert Levenson found that this single behavior is so powerful that they can use it—along with other negative behaviors such as repetitive criticism, sarcasm, and stonewalling—to predict divorce with 93% accuracy.
This post is about proven ways and “best practices” that will split your relationship right down the middle. These methods work flawlessly, no matter what stage—or state—your relationship is in right now.
As a special bonus, you’re going to learn how to become a jerk in your loved one’s eyes (or how to become a greater one).
When my wife and I were in our deepest trouble, one of the “themes” was our relentless focus on the things that didn’t work.
I know all too well how horrible it feels when your life mate starts to see only things they don’t like. Things you screwed up (again). Sometimes it seems they are on a mission to prove that they are right (and you are wrong).
According to John Gottman’s research and the experience of most couples’ counselors, the behavior that predicts divorce with over 90% accuracy is stonewalling.
My wife and I didn’t divorce, but we were THAT close. Admittedly, during that time, I was guilty of resorting to what I also call radio silence.
“Oh yeah, I forgot. You’re perfect.”
I bet you’ve used this phrase before.
Or you’ve been on the receiving end. Or both.
It’s a classic example of sarcasm and it might seem harmless. Beware though, you’re on very thin ice here. That’s because sarcasm is psychologically rooted in anger, distrust, and frustration. It’s one of those nasty habits with damaging consequences, like smoking.
If you are frequently using sarcasm, believing this makes you sound smart or funny, think again. Your bad habit may be harming your relationship with your spouse (as well as with other people) much more than you realize.
Say you bought something in a store and it doesn’t work. You call the company’s customer support. Whether you are right or wrong, two scenarios can unfold.
In the first scenario the customer support representative goes into defence mode. Without even knowing the details, they start implying it’s your fault, making you feel like an idiot. In the process, they’re making you angrier by the second. In fact, they are making you feel sorry you bought their product in the first place.
Imagine you’re a small business owner. A difficult issue comes up and it involves one of your most valuable customers. You know each other for years and they’ve been there in the good times and the bad times.
But something has come up and you need to have a sincere talk with them. So you pick up the phone. Then what?