If you've been in a relationship for any significant amount of time, chances are you have had an argument. If you haven't already, you can pretty much count on it at some point, probably in the near future. All healthy relationships with loved ones have arguments from time to time; some more often than others. While these quarrels may not feel good or even healthy they can be very productive if you practice a few simple concepts, the most important of which is to know yourself.
Have you ever taken a step back in the midst of an argument and tried to identify what's going on with you physiologically? What are you feeling in your chest or in the pit of your stomach? Are your palms clammy? Is your jaw tense? Are you flushed? These are just a few of the many signs that you are in a state of Diffuse Physiological Arousal (DPA). In an argument or general conflict, DPA occurs when your heart reaches or exceeds 100 beats per minute (80 - 90 if you’re a highly trained athlete). Research at the Gottman Institute suggests that once your body has reached DPA then rational thought & conversation becomes impossible. Consequentially once a partner has reached that point the conversation will likely be counterproductive and cause more damage than good.
To avoid DPA when in conflict with a loved one be sure to pay attention to what your body is telling you. These are all signs that you are becoming too worked up and that it’s time to take a break and cool down. Generally speaking, cooling down from DPA takes a minimum of 20 minutes. Here are a few ideas that may help to cool you down a bit:
Let your partner know you’re getting too worked up and need a time out
Change the topic (to a lighter subject)
Go for a walk
Go to another room
Read a blog, book, or article
Watch something fun on TV
Listening to your favorite calming music
Practice some relaxation techniques
Remember though, a cool down period must be followed with an attempt to reengage in the topic of conflict. Avoiding it will inevitably lead to far greater concerns!