Based on my clinical experience, some of the most effective strategies for decreasing the rate and intensity of arguments with family members, friends, teachers, supervisors, etc. have come from the people for whom I’ve provided social communication coaching over the years. These are situations I address three of my and my client’s favorite strategies below…..
If during a heated discussion you start getting angry, frustrated, or feel like you’re going to completely lose your temper, then the first step is to simply stop the conversation before things really get out of control. However, don’t stop there because after suspending your argument your next step is to set up a mutually agreeable time to restart your discussion, preferably 2-4 hours later. Setting a time in the near future to revisit your point of contention allows both parties the opportunity to review what occurred during your discussion, consider the point at which the discussion evolved into an argument, and plan out how you will present your side of things a little (or a lot) differently to avoid your conversation turning into an argument again. It is important that you keep to the appointment time to which you and your “arguing partner” agreed. If you both fail to meet again, then you’re both really just “walking away” from your disagreement without either of you getting a chance to express your individual viewpoints. One or both of you will most likely feel that you were disrespected and that you lost in a big way thus creating an underlying resentment that could negatively impact future conversations and future disagreements.
Another strategy that is proven to help you regain control over your emotional state is deep breathing. There are many helpful YouTube videos that provide fine examples of this natural approach to self-control, but basically deep breathing involves slowly taking in air through your nostrils with your mouth closed. Once you fill your lungs to capacity, hold your breath for a few seconds and then slowly release your air through pursed lips. The increased oxygen floods your system with oxygenated blood and helps to lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
A final technique for regulating your emotions is a guided imagery strategy I refer to as Micro Time Traveling (MTT). With MTT, you mentally project yourself forward in time to experience the negative outcomes of dealing with a situation in an ineffective way. After experiencing the negative outcome, you then switch gears and visualize dealing with the same situation in a more positive way. This allows you the opportunity to experience the positive feelings that result from steering yourself away from a potentially explosive situation before it happens. By taking the role of a spectator, you can be more objective about the role you play in creating negative or positive outcomes based on your reaction to a particular situation. Bottom Line: change your course of action and steer clear of people, places, situations and events that have caused you (and those involved) trouble(s) in the past and you’ll probably find that life is a little less stressful and you are a lot more in control of your emotional state.