“We go from zero to a hundred in no time – there’s no in-between!”
A woman in our last workshop described how she and her husband often end up in loud arguments, seemingly out of nowhere. She honestly shared how they start cussing and name calling, saying things like, “You’re completely dense!” or, “You’re being stupid!”. Not surprisingly, every time this happens, they feel hurt and angry. From that hurt and angry place, they throw more darts back at their partner, and it only gets worse from there.
Does that ever happen in your relationship?
There are a lot of unfortunate side effects of escalating conflicts, such as …
The anger and name calling creates new layers of hurt. It is not just the original subject that needs processing, but the additional hurt from name calling, or the fear and lack of safety that arises from anger and yelling. When this happens, it’s really easy to completely lose track of where a conversation started or what you were trying to accomplish.
You don’t resolve anything, so the conflicts are still alive. It probably goes without saying, but escalated arguments don’t lead to resolution. Once you’re emotionally flooded or highly charged, you’re not thinking straight and you’re definitely not listening. Hence, whatever issue needs resolving, still needs resolving.
You trust each other a bit less every time. When either or both of you start yelling or hurl insults at each other, it can get scary. If you’ve had scary experiences in the past, your feeling of unsafety can be reactivated. When you feel scared, you protect yourself and shut off from your partner. Every time this happens, it becomes harder to open yourself up again.
You both feel bad about yourself. No one likes escalations. No one feels good about themselves after yelling at their partner. You’re likely to feel ashamed of your outbursts and your ineffective communication. It’s pretty much the opposite of what either of you are dreaming of and aspiring to, so it tears you down instead of building you up, as individuals and as a couple.
When it comes to deescalating conflicts, there are three main areas you can focus on improving:
- During escalation: When it’s happening; how to stop further escalation.
- After escalation: How to the repair the damage and hurt.
- Going forward: How to avoid escalations in the first place.
All three of these skill areas require self-awareness, self-discipline, and skill. But it doesn’t have to be all up to you. You and your partner can help each other significantly.
In the first area (during escalation), it’s about “stopping the bleeding”. This can be accomplished by self-calming techniques, pauses, or empathic responses to your partner’s escalation.
In the second area (after escalation), the focus should be on making apologies and repairs, reconnecting emotionally, and restoring safety between you. The ability to deliver a complete apology – not just “I’m sorry” – will go a long way to this end. We developed a process for delivering a full apology, you can learn it on your own in our Apologies mini-workshop.
The third area (avoiding escalations altogether) is a broader field of learning of how to relate to each other in more empowering and productive ways. It involves dealing with upsets while they’re still small, expressing your own triggers in responsible ways (check out our Triggers mini-workshop here LINK); plus the practice of staying calm during emotional intensity.
All of these skill areas are learnt by practicing over time, just like any other valuable skill. You can take a big step in that direction with our new mini-workshop, How To De-Escalate Conflicts. Because this is such an important issue in relationship, we have developed this course to focus on all three important areas mentioned above. As with all our mini-workshops, it only takes 90 minutes and we walk you through step-by-step exactly what to do.
There’s one technique we teach in this course which is an absolute stunner in its simple beauty. We’re not normally given to self-congratulatory hyperbole, but this one-sentence tool can often completely silence someone who’s criticizing or blaming, literally stopping them in their tracks.
To get that ninja-tool, come join our 90-minute mini-workshop, How To De-Escalate Conflict. Learn more here …