To connect or not, the choice is yours. You come into the world with a certain personality and emotional acuity. Life happens, including different perspectives and responses. The problem occurs when familiar reactive responses override your desire to create positive connections with people you care about. A relationship is a state in which you connect with another person. Our goal in relationships we care about is to create meaningful connection as often as possible. Sometimes it is simply a matter of shifting our intonation from one that is hard to one that is tender and kind.
When you are in a heated discussion with another person often times you ignite your primal brain, which paralyzes your ability to access creative solution based thinking along with igniting stress hormones in the body.
Open-minded thinking shuts down as soon as you feel attacked in a conversation. Your ability to truly listen is swallowed up with an unbridled focus to protect your position in the argument at all costs. When flipped into the limbic brain due to feelings of threat you only have three choices of response: fight, flight or flee. The following behaviors will quickly override any desire for positive connection in relationships when you feel threatened:
Stonewalling (tuning the other person out) is a common response when a person is feeling attacked.
Defensive Behavior is another common response when you feel threatened in a conversation. The EGO (Edging God Out) has a hay day in this type of reactive behavior. In Tae Kwon Do we referred to this as: Block, Punch, Kick
Ugly Talk talk or more commonly known as criticism often shows up quickly in a conversation that occurs in the primal brain. Ugly talk also uses the the communication modality of intonation in the form of contempt (conveying disgust).
Have you ever used any of the above responses in a heated discussion? Of course not. ; )
Perhaps you ask: Well, how else am I suppose to respond when I’m feeling attacked, judged or mis-understood in a heated conversation?
Good question. Next time you feel your face getting red, your heart beating fast and your blood pressure rising try these tips:
- Oxygenate your brain so that you remain open to your ability to access the back part of your brain responsible for solution based thinking. Count to 10 as you say, “breathe in and out…in and out”. As you calm your biological response, you become capable of CHOOSING your response verses REACTING to the perceived threat.
- You only feel inferior by your own consent. Understand that anything any human being says or does truly has anything to do with you personally AND everything to do with perceptions of life. Pray for the grace to take nothing personal. This allows you to remain curious and fascinated, capable of accessing healthy problem solving thinking.
- Realize you do not have to respond immediately. In fact studies show that people who take a 1/2 hour “cool down” break before responding in a heated argument have a much higher success rate for solution based resolution. You can say, “I want to cool down, de-stress, access the back of my brain before responding…confident this will benefit both of us…I’ll be back.”
In a relationship you care about, have fun practicing and remember we are here to remember what our soul already knows: you are created by love, for love to love. Forgive as quickly as you become aware that you are not. Each time you make the choice to forgive you expand your ability to love and peace returns.
In relationship wounded by pain, power and pride often lie behind the scenes of forgiveness that is withheld over an extended period of time. Lack of forgiveness often disrupts what we feel is of value: our choice to let go of the pain. The pain in some twisted way becomes a part of our identity and we can too often use it as a weapon in relationships, to pull out during battles. The blame game destroys all good intention to create healthy and sustainable relationships. We exalt ourselves over the other as if to say, “you are beyond repair in this situation, this debt is beyond my ability to forgive.” Divine grace must be called upon in relationships we care about: “Dear God, grant me the grace to forgive and release the judgment of condemnation. Help me to heal and restore inner strength, remind me of my own weaknesses so I can extend a hand of forgiveness for the sake of my own inner peace and freedom from past pain.”
Questions for Reflection:
What is the upside of my choice of behavior in this conflict?
What forward action step can I take to move toward solution?
How does my choice of behavior honor the person I am committed to being?
In relationships you care about explore shifting your intonation into one that reflects patience and tender care verses frustration and harshness. Say what you want to say and say it through the archway of gentle confidence.