And often the arguments are about the same subjects over and over.
The reason for this is often that you don’t know “the #1 rule of healthy fighting”!
Timing is Crucial
You probably spend a lot of time thinking about HOW to resolve your relationship conflicts.
But the WHEN of conflict resolution can make the difference between success and failure.
Resolving a conflict requires:
- you to access honesty, courage, creativity and open mindedness.
- you to accurately listen to the other person.
- you to respond with both your head and your heart.
- the other person to be able to do all that too…
If you are not calm and undistracted these things will not happen.
Choose your time for a relationship conversation wisely. If this is hard to do, speak up about your desire for the conversation and schedule it with the other person so that you both can come prepared – calm and undistracted.
During the Conversation
Once the conversation begins, timing is even more important.
The biggest problem that prevents solving relationship problems is that one person or the other can be triggered into the fight or flight response during a conversation.
And you don’t really know it.
The fight or flight response is a physical reaction that occurs when our brain perceives danger – it doesn’t necessarily mean there is current danger.
When your body senses danger, it pumps blood to your muscles in case you need them. It raises your blood pressure, your heart pounds and your breathing gets fast and shallow.
Your system is flooded with adrenalin and cortisol (the stress hormone).
Most importantly for you, all of this drops the amount of blood flow to the frontal lobes of your brain.
This is the part of your brain that allows you to choose your words well, listen carefully, make good decisions, be creative, solve problems and all the other “higher brain functions”.
Understand this – once your body goes into fight or flight mode, your brain gets stupid.
And that is no condition in which to try to resolve your relationship conflicts.
If one person has a pounding heart, sweating, panicky feeling or any other sign of flooding, the conversation needs to pause.
When either person gets flooded, take a time-out as though it were a football game.
There are rules for the successful use of time-outs:
- Timeouts can occur at any time, whenever either person is feeling flooded (or uncontrollably angry).
- The time-out needs to be spoken if possible. “I need a time-out” is sufficient. Or if someone has trouble with that, use an agreed-upon-ahead-of-time hand signal.
- The time-out must last at least 20 minutes; this is the length of time needed for the body to return to the physically calm state.
- The conversation must be continued at some point with the person calling the time-out responsible for initiating the conversation again when both people are calm.
When you are flooded, you are likely going to think it’s crucial to solve those issues right this second. It almost never is.
Take the break instead of pushing ahead.
Learn to monitor yourself for signs of flooding and stop your conversation BEFORE more damage is done. It can shift your relationship.
The #1 rule of healthy fighting in relationships can make all the difference. Have you ever tried time-outs in your relationships? Let us know your results in the comments.