I don’t know about you but when I’m arguing, I rarely feel as if I’m communicating at my best. Feeling my best is rarely, if ever, an experience I’m having of myself in the moments that I’m raising my voice, being combative with my words, and/or trying to make another person – usually someone I care about – see my way of thinking. What am I feeling? I’ll tell you.
- Out of control
- Like I’m losing even though I may be “winning” the argument
- Suppressed, even though I am probably suppressing someone else
I could go on. But I won’t. That’s more than enough to make you cry. That’s probably why anger and sadness are so closely linked so often in the human experience.
You may have familiar experience when you argue. Or you may experience
in conjunction, or on their own. An argument can trigger a mix of emotions and all in a matter of seconds, or at a slow build into a crescendo. This is why most of us avoid confrontation. It brings up moments when we feel ultimately out of control and we struggle to make sense of what went wrong, and/or what caused the turmoil in another, or in us.
So what can we do to end having arguments? Well, I’m not sure we can end having all arguments forever, but I am sure what I share here will create a new path of communication for you to be able to choose not arguing even when your emotional trigger is pulled by those who know you best.
First, the number one reason why arguments begin is because there are two people with varying points of view that both consider their point of view right.
How we react to varying points of view can be the cause of wars, especially when both people, parties, countries, nations feel that their point of view is the only one that is right. Being right then becomes the reason to fight. No longer is it about the difference in thinking, it’s now about “saving face.” No one is willing to be wrong. No one is willing to look bad. No one is willing to be seen as “lesser” than the other. The argument is no longer an opportunity for reasoning, it is a test of wills. And that’s how all arguments devolve.
How can we stop this from happening? Okay, good starting place: looking to change, looking to evolve. This requires, first, a willingness to be wrong – even if you’re not. I know hearing and acknowledging that statement can be painful. I’ve felt that pain myself. But if you want to master peaceful and productive and prosperous communication, you’ll have to find a way to ease your ego into this one. (Comfort yourself by knowing you’re not alone. And remember, no martyrdom here. Real willingness or none at all.)
Next, it requires the willingness for, at least one party, to know that there is room on this earth for multiple points of view on a subject to exist at once. Wait! What?! Did you get that?
Okay, again… It is important that at least one party be available to the idea that multiple perspectives on one subject, broad or narrow, can exist together. That’s called coexistence.
What?!?! That’s possible???
Yep. It is.
One more time for those in the nose bleed section… There can exist at the same time multiple points of view on the exact same subject. And when you can hold this as true, there will never be another reason for you to have an argument.
Look, you already are adept at this principle to some extent. There are conversations that you have that will never come anywhere near an argument even though you may have a differing opinion from the person you’re speaking to. Frankly, when this occasion is happening, you hold no stake in that point of view being right. But when you do hold a stake in being right and you have your feet dug in about how right you are and how wrong “they” are, the levity of the above situation is just a dream once dreamt a long time ago. In other words, it doesn’t exist.
A really great tool for using in the moment to help you get off the “right” train, before it leaves the station on rails, is Byron Katie’s The Work. Four questions inform her work and you can use them all or just one when you find yourself stuck. They go like this:
- Is it true? What you’re thinking, is it true? Answer yes or no.
- Can you be absolutely sure that it’s true? Answer. (Hint: You cannot know anything absolutely. The answer is “no.”)
- What happens when I think this thought? Think of everything that happens within you. Maybe even think of what happens outside of you, like how do you act on this thought, do you act out on others when you think this, what reactions do others have, how do they respond to you emotionally?
- Who would I be without this thought? Discover who you might be or how you might act without that thought. This is a chance to use both your imagination and your logical mind.
- Bonus… Turnaround: Turn the thought around to its opposite and see how you might be if you thought that the opposing thought instead. (Click “O” magazine article link, if you need clarity and further explanation.)
There are other tools you can use to broaden your immediate thoughts in a moment of presence as you can see an argument begin to build between you and someone else. Seek out the ones, or create them, that are right for you.
Second, being right is a huge emotional trigger for most people. If we consider ourselves “right” on a subject, we will fight for our position. Why do we do that? Because being right is always linked to something greater than a mere thought, it is linked to our intense feelings built up in the past over whatever subject we’re now arguing about. Our brains have linked these things together, and so what is right there when it gets triggered emotionally, is all those past experiences that inform who you are about the subject of conversation that is now devolving into an argument. What is “triggered” – the trigger is actually an activation – by our feelings is our Amygdala. Your Amygdala is the part of your brain that engages when there is a perceived threat at hand. The Amygdala is responsible for your fight, flight or freeze response.
Makes sense right? How many of us have “frozen” in an argument when we’re blindsided by the words of another? I know I have. It’s called by many things, “a loss for words,” “dumbfounded,” “caught like a deer in the headlights,” etc. How many of us have chosen to flit away into another room, another office, another house, another neighborhood, another state, another country? (I went there, huh? Have you? Ha!) That is the “flight” response.
The only other response our Amygdala will seek out is to stay and take up arms – or “fight” response. “(singing) Formez vos bataillons! Armez aux citoyens!” Oh, I’m sorry. That’s from another country. Or is it? (long pause) The norm of my Amygdala’s response in my life? Fight. I’m a fighter and a lover. A lover of winning arguments. But what does it take to transcend this purely biological function?
Well, it’s not purely biological. In totality, it is physiological. Your brain is functioning properly. But the answer to the question of transcendence is to… Be aware. How do you truly transcend your brain’s instinct to facilitate your survival? First, be aware that this is what is happening. That means that where you’re not going to go is off to the make-wrong machine for some self-flagellation – which is a sure way to have this behavior be stuck in perpetuity. If you can simply make peace with that you have a body and it functions in automatic ways, then you’ve taken the next step to transcendence.
I mean, this information can be so amazing if you really take it in because literally being aware, and acknowledging, that you have a real physical reaction from your body that has literally taken you over in this moment can inhibit the automatic nature of your nervous system’s response.
Sound familiar? “It’s like I wasn’t there, like something else had taken over my body.” or “I saw red and I don’t remember everything, just bits and pieces.” or “It was like something was possessing me, like an out-of-body experience.”
Then, in understanding your body, and your brain’s functions in particular, you can begin to be self-aware in ways you haven’t been before. You can begin to trust that you are not crazy when you “fly off the handle,” or that “you don’t have a screw loose,” or that you aren’t all the labels you’ve given yourself so liberally, (and generously, you must admit) or referenced your behavior with that don’t apply. You can let yourself off the hook for your bad behavior. And recognize fully your humanity called a brain.
Now that doesn’t mean you won’t make amends, or that you get “to go off the deep end” for any reason because you now have license. (Well, actually, this behavior will make less sense to follow in its path, and therefore, it will naturally begin to recede.) This is a jumping off point to some real forgiveness and the possibility of peace where there’s been none.
Finally, how you end having arguments is to embrace this principle, “communication is a function of love.” An excerpt from another article I wrote on The REvolution Of Bliss.com, 3 Ways to Listen More Fully In Any Conversation ” is,
Think about it… When you have a great conversation, it brings you joy. You feel more connected, more vivid, and more alive.
When you argue, you feel dead. If you insist on denying that statement, simply refer to the first list compiled above at the top of this article. If that isn’t a list of deadness, I don’t know what is.
Arguing kills off aliveness and, well just think of it, the whole point is winning by subduing someone else’s point of view – aka killing it off. Someone has to be the victor. Figuratively, of course. (I mean if it makes you feel better, I’ve said “figuratively” but “literally” could be implied too.)
And once the “wrong view” has been shut down, stamped out, killed off, ended, then all has been won and life can go on. This is not love. No matter how you cut that. There is no love in shutting someone down. There is no love for them. There is no love for you.
When you leave room for the perspective – or life experience – of others, that is an expression of love. Love is present when you don’t make someone wrong for their view, which honors that they have lived a life worth sharing. Love is present when you put yourself in their shoes and try to see the world the way that they do, even if you will never agree. Love is present when you are willing (ahhhh, there’s that word again) to listen to their point of view even when you know you’re right.
Love is present when you’re willing to learn something from every conversation you participate in, even when you have an unyielding opinion about the subject. Love is definitely present when you’re willing to be amazed by something you hear from the other person/people.
Allow yourself to be amazed. Allow yourself to be malleable. Allow yourself to be in the flow of the conversation. Allow yourself to be willing.
Willingness goes a long way for this brand of adventure we call life. Live it like it’s golden.
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