You love your significant other immensely, but you are still two different people who experience life differently and interpret situations from various standpoints of view. That’s why we say that every communication itself contains a small seed of conflict. Will it grow into something far worse? It depends on your communication skills and your ability to have a healthy argument.
And how we would define a healthy argument? Healthy arguments can strengthen the bond between you and make you better understand each other. You care about your partner, although you agree to disagree on some issues, and show commitment to work on your communication and your relationship.
One of the best ways to have a healthy argument is to learn how to “cool off” and take an effective break before the situation escalates to the point of no return.
It is one of the most useful skills you can learn to apply if you want to achieve what many deem impossible: a healthy and stable relationship, able to withstand the test of time.
Stay with us and master the art of taking an effective break during an argument!
Let the games begin!
After the initial honeymoon phase, reality creeps in and you slowly take off the rose-colored glasses. Result? The conflict rears its ugly head in your relationship.
And slowly, little by little here comes the moment you’ve never thought possible: your first argument, with name-calling and yelling, resulting in ultimate separation or stonewalling, which can last for hours or days.
Sometimes, almost anything can ignite an argument. It doesn’t matter if it’s a minor detail or a major disagreement about your values or beliefs.
If you’re not careful, too many conflicts can cause irreparable damage to your relationship and maybe even put an end to it completely. Here is what you should do next time you find yourself in a middle of an argument, and how to take a break for better!
Pay attention to warning signs
When you’re fighting with your partner, your body and your brain are sent into overdrive with a sudden influx of stress hormones. As a result, your prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for objective thinking, finding new, creative solutions for problems, empathy and logic gets completely overridden and shut down. The most primitive part of your brain, known as the limbic system, takes over. If you’re feeling triggered and endangered, the limbic system gets activated with a fight-or-flight response or freezing.
When you’re in fighting, fleeing or in a frozen mode, you simply can’t perceive the situation rationally as you should. Instead, the instinctual emotions and responses take over and you find yourself fighting (yelling), fleeing (leaving the room), or freezing (stonewalling).
The good thing is that you can actually spot the exact moment when our rational brain shuts down and the primitive impulses take over. Pay attention to warning signs like increased pulse, tightened jaw, clenched fists, or flushed face. When you notice any of these alarming behaviors in you or in your partner, it’s time to call for a time-out.
This will do wonders for releasing the tension and shifting your mind from instinctual to logical reasoning so that you can ultimately resolve the conflict.
When you’re both calm, talk and agree beforehand on your time-out signals. It can be a simple phrase (“Just 5 minutes, please. I need to calm down!”), a gesture (lifted finger) or anything else you can think of. As in the sport, when one of you calls for time-out, it must be immediately respected and honored by the other side.
Don’t try to be defensive or hostile, push the conversation further or follow your partner into the other room. Mutual respect of time-outs is a must.
Take a short break
You’ve asked for a time-out and went off to another room. What’s next?
Sit down, close your eyes, inhale and exhale deeply for 10-15 minutes. Play some of your favorite music or go for a short walk outside. Meditate. Take a bath or shower. Write or say aloud your favorite positive affirmations. Do something which will help you to calm down. In that way, your body will metabolize your stress hormones faster and the sooner that happens, the easier it will be for you to cool off and return to a normal, rational state of mind.
Your break should be minimum 20 minutes – that’s how much it approximately takes for your body to return to homeostasis. And if you’re really, really furious, you can extend that break up to maximum 20 hours, but definitely not more! If 20 hours have passed and you’re not willing to get back and discuss the issue with your partner, it’s an ultimate passive-aggressive tactic, a sign of avoidance, and it will backfire with an even bigger conflict.
This break is not a time-out for you to plan your revenge tactic and win the argument. An effective break serves you to distance yourself emotionally and physically from the conflict so that you can redirect your brain activity to a more logical, rational state. It’s certainly not an easy thing to do, and it’s a real form of self-mastery!
If you do it properly, this break will enable you to come back calmer, ready to listen, and willing to communicate in a more rational and empathetic way.
Let’s try again
Check-in with your partner, and when you’re both ready, you can return and restart the conversation in a more civilized way.
Keep in mind that you both have to be calm down if you want to make it work. You can do occasional check-ups every 30 minutes, to see how the situation goes. If one of you is still angry, do wait a little bit more, so that you can have a normal talk later.
It’s finally a time to reengage and try again! Start the conversation slowly, try to listen, understand and validate your partner’s feelings. Be aware of your thoughts and actions: at the end of the day, we all want to feel loved and understood, right?
Try to look at this conflict as a chance to better understand each other.
Address your partner’s concerns in a thoughtful and calm way. You’ll immediately notice a shift in his or her behavior, too! Get focused on the main issues and suggest ways how to resolve your problem in a creative and efficient manner. Listen, ask for clarifications and leave the tension in the past.
Get back on the right track
If you follow these simple rules, you’ll be shocked how quickly you can come up with a mutual agreement with your beloved one! By learning how to override your primitive emotional impulses and get back on the right track, you’ll significantly reduce the conflicts and agreements among you. Active listening, empathy, apologizing, and taking responsibility will move your relationship to completely another level. All you have to do is learn how to take a break.
And you can master the art of taking an effective break with A Steady Space!
We are your safe haven, where you can improve and upgrade your interpersonal and communications skills, essential for every healthy relationship. Less formal than therapy, and far more efficient for all your relationship issues! Come visit us on-site or book an online meeting, and improve the quality of your communication and wellbeing right away!
Have you ever used some of these tips, even subconsciously? Or perhaps this article has opened your eyes and you’ve taken a time-out recently? How do you cool off and soothe yourself when you’re overwhelmed with stress? Share your insights and tips with us, we’d love to hear them!
Till the next reading, take a break and resolve your conflicts with A Steady Space!