How to stop an argument

Originally emailed 1.03.13

How to Stop an Argument (Epiphany:  a sudden realization, or revelation)

In the “Bleak Midwinter,” following all the anticipation and joy of Christmas, many people find themselves arguing and fighting a lot. Nothing like a little post-Christmas boredom to start picking on each other–or maybe it’s “cabin fever.” Being with partners and kids 24/7 for the past week or two probably hasn’t helped…

So let me share an idea that really helped me understand why and how to stop an argument when it’s gotten really out of control. The why is this:  “When two people are arguing, as soon as one of them loses control nothing is going to be resolved.”

The first time I heard that it was an “epiphany” for me, because I have that rational, linear, kind of mind that believes anything can be resolved if you just keep talking it through. But though that may well happen in a future conversation, it’s not going to happen once someone loses control of their emotions. Marriage experts sometimes call this “flooding.”  

We all know what flooding is: you’re angry or hurt, you start to feel adrenalin coursing through your body: your hearts racing, your face feels hot, it may even be hard to breath. Once you are flooding–or your partner/teenager/parent or sibling is flooding– it’s not going to end well.

Once you really accept that, here’s one way you can stop an out of control argument. Talk about flooding when things are calm, and try to come up with a plan. That plan might look something like this:  If possible, the person who is flooding says so out loud and leaves the room, or the house, or takes a walk–whatever they need to do to calm down. The other person respects that they have had the strength to say they are flooding, and does not try to keep them engaged. If the person who is flooding is too out of control to say it, or insisting they are not when they obviously are, the one who is not flooding cuts things short by saying something like: “I can see you are flooding, there’s nothing more we can accomplish right now, let’s try again in an hour. I’m going for a walk/to my room to read/grocery shopping.”  You might have to try several times to finish the discussion without flooding, but you WILL be able to resolve the issue eventually if at least one of you has the presence of mind to do the damage control, and delay the conversation.  I believe this is what St. Paul meant when he said, “Be angry, but do not sin.”

Understanding this concept was a big epiphany for me. If you’ve had an epiphany you’d like to share, CLICK HERE to go to our new facebook page and join the discussion! Or use this link:

May this season of Epiphany fill us all with new revelations and insights!  Mother Candace+

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