In continuing with our mini-series on how to communicate with your spouse, this weeks installment is about navigating this tough communication road block: an argument. Now, the idea of communicating with your spouse during an argument is a bit misleading because in truth you can’t! Effective arguing or “fighting fair” is something you occasionally hear as a solution to couples fighting. In reality, effective arguing is an oxymoron.
When arguments are heated and tempers are flaring your brain, under the influence of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) is actually incapable of making rational decisions. The parts of your brain responsible for rational thinking and problem solving (the cortex) take a back seat to the lower, more primitive part of your brain, (you know, the old fight or flight part) the limbic system. The limbic system, also know as the emotional center of your brain is not designed for calm, logical thought, you are better off putting the conversation in park until you can reactivate the cortex.
In truth, the key to how to communicate with your spouse during an argument is to not even try, instead stop the argument dead in its tracks and take the time you need to calm down. When differences come up or tensions simmer, it’s better to learn how to resolve them calmly and collaboratively. So how do you do that and what is the calm zone? At Power of Two we like to think of anger on a scale of 1-10 (or 11, 12, 13, 14…you get the picture) An ideal number to shoot for is a 3. When you feel you heart rate and pulse quicken, you raise your voice and anger has arrived on the scene it’s time to walk away, or exit. The sooner you can recognize these signs and remove yourself the better off everyone will be. Once your limbic system is activated it can take as long as 20 minutes to calm down and for the logical part of your brain to get back online. It is essential to walk away, allow yourself ample time to cool off, take a walk, have a snack etc.
Then when you are calm again you can come back with your brain ready to tackle the issue with logic, problem solving and collaboration. Stay tuned next week for the third installment of this series…How to communicate with your spouse: Win win decision making.