NOTE: This article appeared in it’s entirety on Essence.com
Picture this: You and your man are having a heated argument in the car on the way to the movies. Just when you are about to make a good point, he leans over and turns up the radio volume to drown you out. You spin your head to look at him so quickly he thinks you are going to need an exorcism. You’re thinking, no this fool did not. Now this is where it gets tricky. What are the next words out of your mouth?
It’s hot-button situations like this one that can easily turn a perfectly good set of lovebirds into two roosters at a cockfight. Things that we say during arguments are remembered long after the smoke has cleared, and the damage will often outlast the relationships. I wish I could say that I have never said anything jacked up out of anger, but that just wouldn’t be true. What I can say is that all the regrets and apologies in the world can’t repair the damage. Hurtful behavior is like a jackhammer on the foundation of your relationship chipping away it’s resolve until what you have built can no longer stand.
I’m going to get straight to it. Here are 12 little tricks I often try to keep my arguments from getting, well, out of hand.
1. Don’t Argue When You’re Angry: I find the best time to discuss a touchy subject is when I’m not angry. I can usually formulate kinder words and thoughts when I’m remembering how much I love this guy.
2. Use the Shut It Down Card: I always make sure that my boo and I are card carrying members of the “shut it down club.” We agree that either of us can shut down the discussion at any time to avoid things getting out of order. However, don’t use this as a method of avoidance. Repeatedly pulling this card every time the subject arises will eventually negate the method all together.
3. Let It Go: Personally, once I’ve agreed to move past a resolved issue, I try not to bring it back up. It’s a terrible mistake to have someone feel that it’s safe to come out only to be attacked for the same offense.
4. You Both Get To Talk: It’s important that both parties feel they are heard and understood. This one is hard for me because I’m a talker. I’m still learning to focus less on being heard and more on assuring that I understand him.
5. Don’t Flip Flop: Stick to the topic. In my experience, nothing gets resolved when you jump from subject-to-subject pointing fingers. All that defensive posturing never really leads to resolution and increases frustrations.
6. Get Touchy-Feely: So touch is my love language. No matter how pissed off I am, having someone touch me in a loving manner goes a long way to easing my frustration. You might be surprised to see just how quickly things calm down when you get all touchy-feely.
7. No Idle Threats: Threatening to do anything hurtful is a surefire way to get me to shut down. It really bugs me when women threaten to take the kids or men threaten to leave. Attempting to control or punish someone is not about love at all.
8. Watch Your Mouth: I will not under any circumstances tolerate name-calling or belittling comments. And while tone is not a hot button for me, it is for most people. Girl, put a leash on those lips before they do some serious harm.
9. What I Said/ What You Heard: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said something only to have it misinterpreted. Therefore, I had to learn that teaching and learning each other’s communication style is part of the deal.
10. Take Responsibility: We are all human and we all make mistakes. I’ve figured out that owning mine creates an environment of respect and honesty.
11. Circle Back: Just because the disagreement ends, that doesn’t mean it’s over. I usually give myself a day or two to process my emotions and reset my heart. Then I circle back and do a temperature check to assure the situation is completely resolved. Letting things slide only ensures that the same issue will arise again.
12. Apologize: I’m never too proud to apologize. Sometimes it’s because I’m wrong, and other times it because I want to make it right. But it’s always because an apology is the key to opening the heart again.
I didn’t address violence or physical abuse because I assumed those are a given. But for the record, you can count avoiding those altogether as 13 and 14.
Jai Stone is a socialpreneur, author, syndicated blogger and the founder of the Emotional Nudity Lifestyle Brand. Jai writes about love, life and the pursuit of authentic joy. Follow her on Twitter @JaiStone or visit her blog.