Although our parents might have taught us to filter our words during a disagreement when we were children, what they actually modeled was sometimes very different.
If you can recall some of those adversarial exchanges that happened during your formative years, you may see that you have adopted some of those fighting or defending patterns. Even though you are old enough to “know better,” you might just be caught in a bad habit when it comes to reacting to others when you disagree with them.
Unresolved arguments weigh heavily on both parties mentally and physically. Sustained arguments can trigger a fight-or-flight response, which can take its toll on both parties’ well-being and even weaken their immune systems.
Through my life guidance practice, I’ve learned that a lot of unhappiness and energy drain stems from the disagreements we have with others. My clients often recount the heated exchanges, and in some cases, all-out war of words between intimate partners, family members and friends.
Next time you find yourself entering into argument mode, consider the following ideas and take steps to shift your mindset to mitigate the negative effects that an arguing can have.
>> Look within yourself. There are many possible opinions in this world and it’s not so much what others do or say that is important, it’s how you perceive what they say, and what you decide to do about it. To have an argument, especially one that is heated and ongoing, it takes two stubborn people, coming from a place of ego, who both want to be right.
When arguing, you are choosing to take a strong stance and project your biased and often limited opinions on to the other person. Being right and rigid doesn’t lead to resolution, but being understanding does.
Can you expand your thinking enough to accept that there are many valid opinions and that yours is just one of them?
>> Disagreements don’t always have to mean conflict. Sometimes disagreements can lead to conflict, but they can also lead to learning. Flexible dialogs are better than alternating monologues.
Humble yourself and broaden your understanding of multiple aspects of an issue. Ask yourself how you could really hear what is being said and have it benefit you.
If everyone agreed with you, relationships would become stagnant. We grow when we become challenged.
>> Give yourself space when getting heated. Walk away and think about what actually initiated the argument.
This gives you time to ask yourself some questions and figure out the purpose of the argument. Raise your awareness. Ask yourself what someone is doing or not doing, saying or not saying, and specifically what is triggering your emotional response.
The truth is that we are capable of wisely interacting with others, and governing ourselves is the starting point.
I know it’s not easy, but it’s wise to appreciate what the people that disagree with us bring to our lives. And it is agreeable to our soul.
Alice Inoue is the founder of Happiness U. Visit yourhappinessu.com.