Have you ever been cooking and had something boil over and make a terrible mess? If you were cooking on gas or an open flame, things actually got worse when the dish boiled over and fueled the fire. When this happens, the first thing you do is to turn off the heat, right?
Think of this the next time a conversation you are in begins to heat up. The best first step is to calm the flames. In this case, that represents our words. While we cannot control what the other person says or does, we can certainly stop things from escalating by not aggravating the situation with more heated words.
It sounds easy until we’re in a conflict, right? Then, it feels contrary to every instinct we have! I am not suggesting you accept verbal attacks, only that you choose early in the disagreement, when things first begin escalating, not to respond in anger. In the heat of that scene, something kicks in and we start to think about winners and losers – an illusion since everyone loses in an ugly argument! When we’re emotional, better judgment is overshadowed by adrenaline and chemical reactions in our body. We can’t possibly think clearly.
Take a very deep breath. Find the place within yourself where you truly care about the other person. From that perspective, as calmly as possible, tell the other person that you care about them and don’t want to continue this while you’re both upset. Ask to take a break for a specific length of time (tell them how long) and then meet at a specific place (tell them where) to talk when you’re both calmer.
Immediately, find an activity that acknowledges your emotions and helps you release them. For some, walking or some type of exercise helps to burn off the excess energy. For others, finding a quiet place to meditate or listen to soft music helps regain composure. Whatever best suits your personality, the idea here is to take care of yourself and work through that emotion in a way that does not destroy your most important relationships.
Often when we are mad, we yell and say very hurtful words that can never truly be unsaid, or we shut down and don’t communicate at all, leaving it to fester and come out at another time when the incident has long passed. Another damaging action we may take is to walk away without explaining if or when we intend to return, thus creating a new issue of conflict to resolve with that action.
Try these things and see if they help to calm the flames before things get worse, and please let me know how this works for you. Next time, how to proceed when you resume the conversation.
Yours in this Journey,