Listen. Sounds simple right? Wrong. Listening isn’t just about hearing the other person; it’s about listening to what they’re saying without judgement. When you use active listening it shows the other person that you care about what they’re saying. Active listening requires open body language- uncross those arms and turn your body towards the other person. It requires nonverbal communication- nod that head and make eye contact. It also requires a little bit of repeating back-“so you’re telling me you’re upset because I haven’t taken the trash out yet”. That is a lot of work, but it shows the other person they matter and it helps you understand their point of view more.
Don’t get defensive. When we’re upset, it is usually because we feel wronged in some way. A person who is hurt can become defensive as a way to protect themselves, but defensiveness hinders the argument more than it helps. Identify your feelings by being honest instead of defensive. Instead of blaming the other person, “well you’re always so lazy and you never care about anything I care about!”- identify your feelings, “hey I felt unimportant when the trash wasn’t taken out after I asked”. Now the person understands your feelings instead of being angry because you called them lazy.
Validate, validate, validate. You don’t always have to understand the reasons someone is upset, but it does help if you validate their feelings. The other person is yelling at you for whatever reason, but in it all you hear them express being mad. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the reasons someone is upset we completely disregard the actual feelings the other person is expressing. Even if what the other person is angry about doesn’t make sense to you, just validating their experience can make a difference, “you’re really upset, please help me understand”.
Take a breather. Some of us have a long fuse and have patience with our emotional experiences, but others of us have a short fuse. It’s helpful to know what length fuse you have, but in any sense take a breather before you confront someone regarding an emotional response you are having to something they did or said. Take a minute to breathe and think about what is causing this emotional reaction so that you can better respond to the situation. This can be the difference between yelling and having a calm conversation. Take the time to reflect before the conversation.
Avoid yelling at all costs. Yelling causes our emotional arousal to skyrocket and with such high levels of arousal we are now focused on protecting ourselves instead of having a conversation. Our body goes into “fight or flight” mode when these levels of arousal happen and our body begins to focus on winning instead of salvaging the relationship. I don’t mean winning the argument- our body’s hormone levels increase so much that our body is focused on fighting a threat. Think of early humans fighting off saber tooth tigers, once our hormone levels get up there and we get into “fight or flight” mode you’re no longer in the living room fighting about the toilet paper roll, your body is now trying to fight off a saber tooth tiger and survive. So resolutions don’t happen from yelling. If you need to- take a breather (tip 4) and come back to the conversation at a later time.
NIKKI ANCONA, MA.
Nikki Ancona, MA. Registered Marriage and Family Intern #IMF100908. Supervised by Traci Lowenthal, PSY22910 at Creative Insights Counseling' Nikki has ongoing experience in working with a range of difficulties such as anxiety, depression, and relationship difficulties. In recent years, she worked on a college campus where she gained experience working with adjustment difficulties, lead self-care workshops, and was an advocate for sexual assault survivors and international students. Nikki has experience with diverse populations and she is aware of the importance of an individual’s perception of their environment. She believes that our experiences help shape how we respond to our world, so the focus is on shedding a light on early and current experiences. Nikki’s approach to therapy is strengths based and insight oriented where knowledge is power and the more you understand what is going on within and around you, the better equipped you are to cope. Call to make an appointment 909-240-7833.