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Want to dial down the unhealthy drama in
your relationship? You can, once you know how to defuse blow-up arguments and
unresolved feuds.
“Massive, all-out fights are bad for you.
They make your heart race, cause stress, and can trigger issues like migraines,”
says psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert. “On the other hand, learning to have good
conversations keeps your relationship healthy.”
Here are six ways to ensure your next
argument has a good outcome.
Keep Calm and Carry On
If your blood’s boiling and you can
barely remember what started your fight in the first place, call a time out.
“It’s next to impossible to be logical, let
alone empathetic, in a heightened state,” Alpert says.
Pick the discussion back up when both of
you feel levelheaded. If you can’t keep your voice down, you may not be ready
to have the conversation.
Know Your Goal
Before you sit down to talk, Alpert
recommends you ask yourself: “What do I want to accomplish here? Do I want
to hurt my partner, or work toward a resolution?”
Focus on finding a positive solution from
the get-go. That makes it more likely you’ll listen and stay thoughtful.
People who keep their angry feelings
contained may be more likely to develop health conditions like high blood
Keep to Task
Keep your argument brief and on-point.
“Leave the past in the past. Don’t bring up
all the prior problems related to the one you’re discussing. Instead, solve one
thing at a time,” says psychotherapist Tony Tessina, PhD. “Keep statements
to two or three sentences. That way, it doesn’t seem like you’re trying to
dominate the conversation, and it will be easier for your partner to grasp what
you’re saying.”
Know What You Need
Instead of criticizing your partner’s
habits or values, be specific, Tessina says. For example, say, “It would mean a
lot to me if you’d stop using your cell phone during dinner,” rather than, “I
think you’re addicted to Facebook.”
Also, steer clear of words like
“always” and “never.” “Over-generalizing is upsetting and
is usually also untrue,” Tessina says.
Sleep On It
A lack of sleep makes conflicts harder to
resolve, a recent study shows. If you’re frazzled or fried, it’s OK to go to
bed mad if you both agree to put talks on hold until the next day, Alpert says.
Pause Between Statements
It takes work to change the way you
communicate. Suggestion: Discuss a hot-button issue when you’re not mad.
your partner make a statement about the problem, but take at least 10 minutes
to think about what he or she has said before you respond,” says Gerald
Goodman, PhD, a psychologist and professor emeritus at UCLA. “Then sum up
what your partner said, and make your own statement. Go back and forth a few
times. It may take several hours or days, but it will pay off.”
Find it hard to pause between statements?
“My research shows that learning to delay your response helps you stay calm and
find solutions during major conflicts,” Goodman says.
Between pauses, use the time to listen to
your partner, Alpert says. The more you’re on the same page, the easier it is
to resolve fights quickly and fairly.

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