I recently got an email from someone who had read my book Healing the Hurts of Your Past . She said that she and her husband both struggled with shame and the book helped them understand what made them tick.
But she wrote because their shame issues make for hurtful arguments between the two of them. She said that in the heat of the moment they both say things that they regret and wondered what I might suggest for them.
I told her that ideally they would find healing for their shame and then they would be less inclined to get angry in the heat of the moment. That is the goal of my book for people but it takes time, it’s a process. But in the mean time I offered the following advice.
Talk about your hot buttons.
Sit down with each other and diagnose your past arguments and talk about it. Review the arguments and say things like…I first got angry when you said this… I think I got angry because I felt small and thought you don’t care how I feel (or whatever it is you felt).
And then your spouse might say…I see what you mean. Yeah, that was harsh. I’m sorry. What I was thinking was… But I said THAT because you questioned my logic and I felt stupid, just like I did when my dad pointed out my mistakes as a kid.
It takes courage to have an honest discussion like this but it is constructive and not destructive. It will help you the next time a disagreement comes up.
Have a plan for arguments. Don’t let them escalate.
The minute the first hurtful word flies one of you needs to stop and call a “foul”. Don’t let it escalate. My wife really helped me with this. When I said something harsh she would stop and say, I don’t understand why you are so defensive. My purpose isn’t to attack you. I just don’t understand what you are saying. Help me understand.
By clarifying her intention it showed me that she was on my side. We were teammates not adversaries. Then I would stop and analyze why I was defensive and tell her. Now we rarely end up in the heat of the moment because we address the issue immediately, before it has time to develop into something.
Call a time out for your arguments.
Take five minutes, a half hour, a day, whatever it takes to reflect on how you feel. Research shows that anger distorts your thinking. It causes you to be convinced of your own rightness and the wrongness of your opponent. So you need time to decompress and calm down t0 think and speak logically again. It’s like hitting the “reset” button.
Some people need more time than others to process what’s going through their mind. Just be sure to set a time that you will get back together. It’s easy to just let it slide.
Pray together and ask God to help.
Realizing that there is a Third Party observing your arguments helps to stay objective and respectful. One of the best ways to worship God is to show respect and dignity to the people he created. I keep that in mind when I disagree with someone.
It might seem awkward to take these steps but you can do it. It’s just a matter of developing new habits. You need to commit to communicating and not just reacting. If you do this you will end up being much closer in the long run.
This is what I wrote back to the woman who contacted me about her family arguments. She said it meant a lot to her so I pass the words on to you.
Question: What are some of the things that help you not respond hurtfully in your arguments? Help everyone and share it below. Thanks.
Need more help? My new book STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships might help you.
- The Powerful Effect Of Disengagement (tuitionpaidlessonslearned.com)
- How to End an Argument (coachingpinboard.wordpress.com)