In the heat of arguing, it’s human nature to do our best to win. However, arguing can get quite irrational when we lose focus of what we’re trying to resolve. If we’re not focused on solving a problem, we’re wasting time and energy that can be diverted into something more positive.
In a bad argument, our empathy for the other person disappears, and we become self-centered and defensive. We basically turn into angry chihuahuas or cursing sailors. All that matters is our own perspective on the problem. Our proposal to resolve it. Our solution. Screw everything else.
But what if we’re wrong?
How do we know we’re right if we’re focused on forcing our reasoning onto the other person? Some people just can’t handle arguments.
For many, a sudden spike of adrenaline during an argument directly proceeds a bout of cursing. It happens right before they throw a plate off the table. Before slamming a door. Before sending an angry email. Before spending money on strange things. Or right before physical aggression. Losing control of an argument can end in terrifying ways.
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The journey to conquering a problem is tedious enough. I’d rather have an extremely simple shortcut than a deep and detailed run-down of methods and processes to do so. I try to focus on finding paths—and in the case of a heated disagreement, I tried to find a direct path, a shortcut, to resolve conflicts.
To put things in the context: My fiancée is Chinese, I’m Ecuadorian, so cultural differences do make an impact in our lives. Sometimes these differences are funny. Sometimes they’re not.
Here’s my recipe for navigating conflict.
Step 1: Shut up
It’s such a waste of time to spend your energy arguing. Once the discussion reaches the point when you’re irrational, there’s no way in the world you’re gonna end up victorious. Instead, you’re gonna end up sleeping on the couch. Eating some ugly microwaveable food. Watching TV till late. Drinking a beer on your own, pretending you’re reflecting on your brilliance.
Why go through all of this? Just…shut up. Let the silence embrace your anger. Put a pause to the conflict.
Step 2: Turn around
I came up with the idea of sitting (or standing), leaning my back against my girlfriend’s back whenever a discussion heated up and we needed to resolve a dispute over something.
“Stand, or sit down, and lean your back against the other person’s back.” —Me, scientist.
Step 3: Continue arguing
That’s right. Continue where you left. With the same energy. Just imagine you’re still facing the other person, as if nothing has changed, and watch how magic happens.
After a couple of minutes, this always helps to end the discussion. Thanks to this method, we have learned a lot about ourselves and each other. And saved countless moments of angry body language and words bouncing between the walls of our home.
“What happens is that the arguing immediately becomes more objective.” —Me, scientist.
There’s no better way to realize if you’re right or wrong than speaking with yourself, with honesty. Honesty, however, is hard to achieve when we can’t control our emotions and interactions.
By standing back-against-back, you no longer have another person across the room to argue with. You become vulnerable, because your words are aimed at nobody in front of you. You’re on your own, looking at a corner of the room. Your voice reflects off the walls and yells back at you. You will hear what the other person in the room hears. It’s a wonderful experience.
“You will trick your mind. For your brain, it is illogical to be arguing with nobody. Your mind’s logical self-preservation instinct will fight against doing something as dumb as yelling at the air.” —Me, psycholoscientist.
You will be more clear and objective and think, “Well, I do have a point!”or maybe, “Oh, this is wrong. I am wrong.”
For me and my fiancée, it usually takes a few minutes to end the discussion for good. The best part is when you turn around and you get to face the person who you just agreed with.
Step 4: Turn around again, and enjoy your peace
This is exceptional with couples. It’s a moment of relief and happiness where you go: “Ah! There she is!” or “Ah! There he is!” Feel the beauty of a peaceful moment.
This often ends with a silly smirk, a tiny laugh. Or a slap. Or sex. Or both. Depends. Results may vary.
This post originally appeared at Medium.