Some of my clients recently have been having difficulty in their communication with their partner. There is a lot of conflict about issues most of us have to deal with – kids’ summer activities, vacation place and time, family time, self time. You get the picture. There’s a lot of anger followed by voice raising, name calling and, as expected, a lot of antagonism.
This is a pattern of behavior that needs a minimum of two people to get it going. It can look something like this:
Person A: Once again you planned something without asking me. You always do that.
Person B: But I asked you and you didn’t respond. I had to do it on my own.
Person A (getting angry and raising their voice): You treat me as if I don’t exist; as if I just have to follow. You don’t respect me.
Person B (starting to get upset): Now that’s not fair. You know that’s not the case and it has nothing to do with respect…………
Does it sound familiar? I bet it does to a lot of us, myself included. We all get into this trap at times. And instead of clarifying and expressing our emotions we attack the other person by responding to their impolite remarks. The argument escalates, there’s no solution and we find ourselves more angry than before. So what can we do to avoid this kind of situations?
We need to break the pattern. Why? Because anger can escalate and lead to physical or emotional violence which may put our safety at stake. Because if we respond to anger with anger we may be seen as the aggressor. And because when we respond calmly we set the example for others.
Here are some suggestions to calm the situation.
- Do your best to respond calmly by using a low tone of voice and a non-threatening body language.
- Learn how to manage your emotions so as not to take it personally.
- Practice deep breathing.
- Take a step back and try to see what the real issue may be. It’s highly possible the other person’s anger has nothing to do with you.
- Listen actively and with empathy and acknowledge the other person’s feelings.
- Apologize when necessary.
- Set your limits. You have every right to leave the “conversation” if you don’t feel safe or if you’re too upset to respond.
Remember, it takes two to tango. It’s your choice to dance or not.