Communication Resource

Couples Communication: How to Take the Heat Out of an Argument.

All couples have arguments. Though it may not be fun, disagreeing with one’s spouse or partner is inevitable and, in most cases, doesn’t signal an unhealthy relationship.

So, all couples argue, but not all of them argue well. Too often during a disagreement, things simply get too hot. When we feel attacked or disrespected, things can spiral out of control. We may shout, hurl accusations or even say things we later deeply regret. The bad feelings can linger for days or begin to sour a good relationship.

Relationship experts Drs. Helen Hunt and Harville Hendrix find that it’s not so much how often couples fight but rather how quickly they can recover and get back on track with feeling the love and connection.

What is the best way to recover quickly from an argument? Take out the heat.

I’ve found that if I can help my clients to simply slow down during times of conflict, they can diffuse the negative energy, clear their heads and engage in a much less heated discussion. Disagreeing from a calm and rational place greatly diminishes feelings of anger, frustration and resentment and more often leads to a positive outcome.

Here’s a simple, yet powerful technique you can try the next time you and your partner find yourself on opposite sides of a problem: stop and take at least three deep breaths together.

Doctor and interpersonal neurobiologist Dr. Daniel Siegel has found that when his clients take three deep and slow breaths they relax and become more present—thus allowing them to handle issues from a more relaxed and rational place.

Conflict triggers the “fight or flight” response, raising our heart rates and blood pressure, flooding our nervous systems with adrenaline, and setting off a host of other physiological changes. By taking the breaths together, we not only slow the “fight or flight” response, but we sync our body to our partner’s.

Need more convincing? A simple Google search on “benefits of deep breathing” will bring up hundreds of thousands of research-based articles on the benefits of slowing down and taking deep breaths. Some of the top results come from Virginia Women’s Center, Harvard, Forbes and the Mayo Clinic.

Once you take a few deep breaths your whole system is going to be calmer.

Now that’s a place to start talking from!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Begin by trying this alone, when things are calm. Notice how relaxed it makes you feel!
  2. At an easy time to talk to your partner, ask if you two can practice slowing down. Let your partner know you’d like to practice breathing together as a way to connect and just relax together. You can also add it will only take one to two minutes, tops (which is what I suggest when you start this practice).
  3. Sit comfortably, facing each other. Look into each other’s eyes with a soft gaze and a neutral expression.
  4. Now take a few deep, slow breaths together.
  5. *This is for you over-achievers: if you want to add an extra level of depth to this practice, when you two exhale let out a big sigh as you do it. Think of the exhale noise like a soft orgasm or just a big sigh of relief.

After you’ve grown comfortable deep breathing together, suggest that you try it the next time you feel things growing a bit tense or heated between you.

I’d love to hear from you if you try this technique for the first time or if you’ve been practicing it for a while! Let me know how it’s working in the comments.

How to Bring up an issue so your partner will listen

Want to talk about an issue with your partner?

Would you like a simple strategy that has been proven to help invite listening, a response, and dialogue?

In today’s tip, I want to show you how to do that.

When it comes to talking to your partner about an issue there are two ways we can bring the issue up. We can do it in a way that invites them to listen and discuss it with us, or we can do it in a way that pushes them away.

I’m sure you want a way that invites listening and dialogue.

Did you know that the in the research by Drs. John and Julie Gottman they found that when couples talk about a problem, the first two minutes of a conversation were more important than the rest of the conversation.

In my own experience, I’ve found that the first 30 seconds are the most important.

Essentially, what I’ve boiled it down to is this:

How you bring up a problem is more important than how you resolve it.

So, how can you bring up an issue in a way that statistically shows a more positive outcome?

This way isn’t new, and it’s not something most people don’t already know—yet so many people need this friendly reminder.

That powerful way to bring up an issue is using I statements.

But not just the classical I statements you learned in grade school, I’d like to introduce you to something a bit more advanced.

In their popular book, “Conscious Loving” Drs. Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks talk about telling the Minute Truth. They say that the best way to be honest is to use non-blaming language, to use language that is inarguably true, and to use language focused on body sensations.

Inarguable truths are statements that are true for you and can’t be argued against.

For example, if I say, “you’re rude” it can be argued by some that you are not. On the other hand, if I were to say, “I am feeling uncomfortable in this moment” no one can argue about that. It’s inarguably true statement.

When we talk to our partner, they often get defensive when we make statements that are not inarguable.

But if we make I statements that are based on our personal experience, it’s highly unlikely anyone will get upset about it. Sure, some people might, but the probability goes way down.

In my couple’s sessions, I have yet to have a couple argue when one partner says, “I feel sad and feel some tension in my throat.” It’s also been my experience that when a statement is opened in this way, partners always listen to each other.

I am sure you’d like to learn more, and that’s why I interviewed the professional on this subject, Dr. Gay Hendricks himself—interview coming out soon.