By David Joel Miller
If you live in an emotional storm there are ways of creating safety.
Does your home life feel like a Middle East battlefield? You dread going home or your family members returning home because the next emotional storm is about to hit. Another emotional typhoon is on the way and you are standing directly in its path. How will you survive one more day in this situation?
There are ways to weather the storm, bring peace to the battlefield in your home and begin to clean up all the wreckage of the past. This does not mean you need to lie down and play the victim. You need to take charge as much as possible of your life and learn the skills to make peace in your house.
The conflicts may be between you and your partner, the children or the extended family and friends. Whatever the relationship try applying one or more of these techniques to settle things down and repair damaged relationships.
1. A soft answer turns away wrath – de-escalation.
Most of us have learned to match insult for insult, threat for threat. Being right may make the situation worse. Learn to let some things go to not answer every word-bomb lobbed in your direction.
Develop the skills to calm things down not escalate them. Professionals learn that if you go nose-to-nose toe-to-toe and get in someone’s face the situation is headed for an explosion. Soft words, calm slow tones and a willingness to calm things down rather than try to force the other person to back down will get you to a much safer place.
Yelling matches usually result in actions or permanent emotional ruptures.
2. Take a time out.
When people get worked up pushing through to try to “resolve this once and for all” can cause results you do not want.
People who are overwrought may do and say things they will regret later.
3. Look for the good in those around you.
If you look for bad actions and bad motives you will see them, even when they did not exist before. Look for what is good about that person and this will help you get through the times of conflict.
4. Take responsibility for how you feel.
Other people do not make us angry or sad. What they say may be things we did not want to hear. But we have the choice of letting them upset us or letting things go as just part of the heat of the moment.
Do not take the bait and turn a disagreement into World War Three. Children are good at “getting your goat.” And making the resulting explosion all your fault. If you lose your temper you also lose all around.
5. Communications means listening.
In couples counseling, one exercise we use is to get one person to explain their view of the problem and then the other person to try to explain what their partner is saying.
Most people get this wrong.
When the other person is talking most of us are thinking of what they want to say when they finish. You may be thinking of explanations for what you did and said or arguments to prove you are right.
What happens frequently is that what you are arguing about is not what the other person said. You may have heard the words but in the process, if you missed the feelings behind the words. You are talking about way different things.
Listen to understand and the argument may melt away as you hear that your partner is scared or worried not that they are resisting you.
6. Pick your battles.
This is especially important with children. They will start to argue about everything. Some people think that if they give in on the small things that mean that they are losing ground. Not necessarily. Save your strength for the things that matter rather than trying to control every aspect of the other person’s life and actions.
When you fight with your kids over everything you lose their attention. It all seems like you are disagreeing with them just to be controlling. Eventually, they will wear you down.
Yes, you need some standards and some rules. Pick them wisely.
7. Avoid drugs and alcohol as ways to cope with feelings.
Many of the couples that come for counseling spend a lot of time on what they are arguing about and report that some weeks they get along fine and other weeks they fight a lot. What they fail to connect is the times they are fighting more, they are often drinking or drugging more.
Using alcohol because you are angry is not likely to reduce your anger. Alcohol just reduces your inhibitions and results in more and worse fights.
If you live with a substance abuser, when they are under the influence is not the time to have this out. Lots of Chemically dependent people will provoke fights so they can blame you when they go drink or get high.
You probably need professional help in dealing with this.
The worst thing you can do is join in the substance abuse.
8. They were that way when you meet them – acceptance is the key.
Couples get together and they accept just everything about their new partner. Then a year or so later, right after the first child is born they commence to fighting about every little thing. The things that were so cute when you were dating are now major annoyances.
Try to accept that the person in your life – that is just the way they are. You can ask for them to do or not do things, but do not try to change the person they are. Not in the short run anyway. Failure to accept the person for who they are will eventually ruin the relationship.
Is this issue really so severe that you would prefer to end the relationship rather than accept it?
9. Pick a partner and you pick a set of problems.
When things are going badly in relationships we often think that changing partners or throwing the child out will end the problem. It rarely does.
After that change, we get to feeling alone and we let someone else into our life. Guess what? They come with a new set of problems we hadn’t counted on.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books
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