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How to keep your cool in a heated argument

Published:Sunday | November 27, 2016 | 11:00 AM

The recurring cases of domestic violence and increasing use of weapons in our educational institutions are causes for deep concern. They reflect a failure to resolve conflicts amicably.

Today, we present a step-by-step plan to keep your cool if you get caught up in a heated argument. Developing the skill to diffuse and resolve disagreements amicably will prevent conflicts from being escalated to violence.

Some individuals are wired to go colder and outwardly calmer the more frustrated and upset they get. Others blow their tops and display visible signs of anger. Either way, we must exert control over our emotions.

Tips to bring your emotions under control in an argument - inwardly and outwardly:

 

The Bottom Line

 

Identify the triggers that set you off and work to develop strategies to switch them off before you explode.

 

Steps:

 

- Recognise and admit it to yourself when you are upset and angry. Owning emotions helps.

Identify why you are angry. Not what it appears to be, but at the innermost level - what is causing this deep sense of upset. It may not really be what was said, but how you feel about the person.

- Ask yourself what you want from the discussion. How do you want it to end? Do you want to leave on good terms or do you secretly want to send a hostile message?

- Take deep breaths i.e. breathe more slowly. Paying attention to your breathing has a calming effect.

- Listen as if you were other party's defence attorney. What is the essence of the case that they are making? Seek to understand it so well that you could defend it. That way you will better appreciate their point of view. This is challenging but if you want an amicable result it will be worth the effort.

- Avoid interrupting the other party. Bite your tongue. Control your body language. You can interrupt by rolling your eyes, throwing up your arms, turning away. Act as if you are communicating via a two-way radio. "Over and out" is your cue to talk.

- Modify #6 carefully if the other party goes into a never-ending rewind of things that they have said. Calmly, ask for a time-out. Seek permission to state what you understand them to be saying "for clarity and the avoidance of misunderstanding".

- Seek the other party's views on what would constitute resolution of the matter. If that is in keeping with your position (#3), then proceed to swift implementation. If not, probe further the areas of disagreement. Always look out for common ground.

- Make concessions depending on the outcomes you desire. Don't let minor issues stand in the way of a significant breakthrough. You want to get this behind you and move forward.

- Maintain eye contact and call them by their name. That helps you to Recognise that this is a real person. Hearing their name reminds them of who they are.

- Speak in terms of "I" and avoid the use of "You". "I listen better when I am not being shouted at" versus "You are always shouting at me!"

- Deal with situation at hand. This is not a history lesson. What are we dealing with here and now? Banish "always," and "never."

- Review your role in the matter. Could you have responsibility for any of this? Could you have taken action to avoid this situation?

- Apologise where you should accept responsibility. This indicates your willingness to be balanced and not just to throw darts. They might in turn give you a listening ear.

- Carefully share your perspective, gently highlighting the points of difference. "I see your point of view and understand how this might be impacting you."

Focus on the long term. You will have to relate to this individual in the future. Be kind and polite.

• Trevor E. S. Smith is a behaviour modification and team cohesiveness coach. Email: info@swpacademy.com or lifestyle@gleanerjm.com