Those Are Fighting Words: Steps for Using Mindfulness in Arguments
When did you last say something you regret? Can you remember the person… the conversation… the situation? How you felt during the exchange? Does your body feel tense as these memories come to mind?
Regrets may be small… regrets may be large… but unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, a volley of words may escalate into an unskillful exchange. Without the ability to hit “delete,” an interaction can become embedded in memory, creating a stress reaction that takes on a life of its own.
In fact, the aftermath of an argument may be even more stressful than the moment of ireful interaction itself. A lingering sense of discomfort may take hold when the scenario runs through your mind again and again. Perhaps you’re trying to justify the words that come out. You may be feeling guilty and seeking solace as you try to soften the edges of the exchange in your memory.
Disagreements happen. Arguments arise. Can you learn to keep cool when tempers are hot? The answer is yes — if you’re willing to try something different when an exchange is ramping up.
Here are some tips that can help you learn how to use the power of mindfulness as an “internal intervention” before you say something you’ll regret.
Remember to Breathe
Mindfulness is simply being present in the moment in a gentle, nonjudgmental way. As you clear your mind and calm your body, you gain an opportunity to stay centered, no matter what’s going on. The situation may be the same, but you have changed.
Here’s a simple mindfulness meditation technique that you can use anywhere and anytime. Even—no, make that especially—when an exchange begins to escalate, because you don’t have to close your eyes to do this meditation. Simply take one or two slow, full relaxed breaths as you breathe in and out from your belly and let thoughts go. Focus on the sensation of breathing—how the air feels as it enters and leaves your nostrils, the rise and fall of your belly. Being present, non-judgmentally in the moment, clearing your mind is the key to short circuiting your stress/anger/fear response.
Connect with Your Center
Your mind may be seething. Your gut may be churning. But your center will be calm once your breathing begins to bring you into the present-mindful-moment.
Respond or React? It’s Your Choice!
From this calm centered place, something remarkable can happen. Instead of reacting instantly and escalating the argument with a flash of anger or a snarky comment, you can take responsibility for your words. You may choose to react angrily—or—you may choose to respond in a way that won’t damage the relationship. Whether it’s a calm question to get more information, or simply saying that you’re really trying to understand, in a split-second choice, you can align yourself with mindfulness instead of mad-ness and feel the difference it makes.
Remember—what you don’t say during an argument is just as important as the words you do!
Your Wellness Tip To-Go:
Saying something we’ll regret during an argument isn’t the only time we need to stop negative words, it’s also important to tell that “Debby Downer” voice in our head to be quiet as well! Negative self-talk can be incredibly damaging to our self-esteem, but we can take steps to silence that inner monologue. Click here to discover ways to use mindfulness to stop negative self-talk in its tracks.