How to get along
Originally posted 16 August 2023 on The Stouffville Review
Being in a committed relationship and sharing your life with someone means open and honest communication. Sometimes these conversations can be difficult, and you might not always see eye to eye. This is normal, but of course it can be stressful. If we’re not careful with our words, and sensitive to others, we might say things we don’t mean, and this can lead to more unnecessary stress. It’s easy to be triggered by your partner, especially during these difficult conversations. We can go from calm to infuriated very quickly-sometimes sending us into fight or flight mode. This is when our brain senses danger and activates our survival mode. Without realizing it, we are now functioning from a place that doesn’t allow for empathy or understanding of the other’s perspective. We can say hurtful things, things we don’t even likely mean, as we are in protection mode.
What we really need is to implement strategies for healthy, respectful dialogue. Try these techniques to help you remain calm and keep your emotions in check when discussing things that might trigger you or your partner.
Pause and Take a Deep Breath
It may seem like a small thing, but taking the time to take slow, deliberate breaths does so much to regulate our emotional state. The slow, deep breaths send a message to our brain that the danger is gone, allowing us to speak from a more meaningful place. So, as soon as you start to feel those emotional triggers, take some deep breaths!
Be Present In The Moment
Another technique that helps bring you out of fight or flight is to purposefully engage in the present moment from a sensory perspective. Take a moment to feel the couch cushion, focus on the objects around you and notice the details, or have a drink of water. Pulling yourself out of the emotional state by noticing your surroundings helps to bring you back to the present moment and allows you to more easily regulate how you are feeling.
Often we listen only to respond, we are just waiting our turn to speak and to make our point. When we don’t fully listen to what the other person is saying, it is easy to misunderstand their point of view, and to truly hear them. We need to practice listening to understand versus listening to respond. What is your partner trying to tell you? Can you empathize? Do you see their point of view? Differences offer an opportunity to see things from a fresh perspective, instead of feeling defensive or judgmental, try approaching the conversation with curiosity and an open mind.
Life presents a lot of opportunities for difficult conversations! The key is to figure out techniques that work for you to help you regulate your emotions, keep calm and communicate more
compassionately with your partner.