Togetherness, particularly if it’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week can create stress and unresolved, unrelieved tension.
The rosy pictures of family harmony isn’t always rosy. As psychotherapists we were privy to the fact that being cooped up with family, whether in a family business or on-demand family functions, often brings out the worst in people and interpersonal relationships.
Clients who had no family fantasized about what they were missing and clients with families fantasized about how to miss family gatherings.
- It is not helpful to ruminate on what was, what could be, ruminate over and over about the hurt, anger, injustice of it all. Rumination leads to depression and/or anxiety.
- Address little annoyances quickly before they become chronic irritations that evolve into big problems.
One of the ways to talk about what is bothering you is to follow a simple script:
When you ____________________ Fill in with a SPECIFIC, identifiable, VISIBLE, concrete BEHAVIOR. No generalizations or blame, like “you hurt me”.
I feel _________________________ Fill in with an emotion – angry, happy, sad, frustrated, mis-understood, devalued . . . etc. Do NOT BLAME and say “I feel that YOU ________”
I want you to ________________ Fill in with a SPECIFIC, identifiable, concrete BEHAVIOR
Example: When you walked away when I was talking. (WALKED AWAY is a behavior)
I felt devalued. I want you to stay, listen
* * *
Here’s interesting research on replaying an argument in your mind can help.
ReIMAGINING Family Arguments
in Detail Can Help
“Repeated studies have found that people prone to depression can get worse if they excessively dwell or ruminate on a stressful incident such as a quarrel or a loss. But experiments by Exeter University psychologists have found that when individuals practised running emotional incidents through their head, focusing on sensory details and recalling exactly what happened, how it happened, and even where it happened, it helped them respond constructively and stopped them becoming so upset about a future or past stressful experience.“
“Psychologists at the University of Exeter have found that recalling (imagining, NOT vocalizing) the detail of shouting matches and disagreements, including exactly who said what to whom and how, may not be destructive and prolong the tension, but could help people keep incidents in perspective and stop the triggering of self-doubt and even depression.”
“After training to recall the details of an upsetting incident including the tone of a voice, the words used and how the event happened, people became more resilient and put the upsetting incident into context, stopping a downward spiral into low mood.”
“The same exercise of focusing on the sensory details of sad experiences and asking “How did it happen?” “How can I do something about it?” was also found to speed up recovery from doing badly on a test in undergraduates, and to improve interpersonal problem solving, such as finding a way to make up with your partner after an argument, in people who were currently or formerly depressed.”
“For people experiencing depression learning to focus on stressful incidents and to re-imagine them in full technicolour asking themselves ‘What is unique about this situation?’ ‘ How did it happen?’ – instead of ‘Why did it happen to me? had an a ‘significant’ impact on helping to alleviate mental ill health.”
Read the full article:
I JUST ADDED THIS: Some of these tips are general, suggesting a mindset to cultivate. Others are more specific in advising you what to do in the moment.
- Listen. Listening is the number one step in dealing with “unreasonable” people. Everyone wants to feel heard. No progress can take place until the other person feels acknowledged. While you’re listening, really focus on what the other person is saying, not what you want to say next.
- Stay calm. When a situation is emotionally charged, it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. Monitor your breathing. Try to take some slow, deep breaths.
- Don’t judge. You don’t know what the other person is going through. Chances are, if a person is acting unreasonable, they are likely feeling some sort of vulnerability or fear.
- Reflect respect and dignity toward the other person. No matter how a person is treating you, showing contempt will not help productively resolve the situation.
- Look for the hidden need. What is this person really trying to gain? What is this person trying to avoid?
- Look for others around you who might be able to help. If you’re at work and there’s an irate customer, quickly scan to see if a colleague is close by.
- Don’t demand compliance. For example, telling someone who’s upset to be quiet and calm down will just make him or her irate. Instead, ask the person what they are upset about—and allow them to vent.
- Saying, “I understand,” usually makes things worse. Instead, say, “Tell me more so I can understand better.”
- Avoid smiling, as this may look like you are mocking the person. Similarly, humor can sometimes lighten the mood, but more often than not, it’s risky and it may backfire.
- Don’t act defensively. This is tough. You’re naturally not enjoying the other person saying nasty things or things that you know aren’t true. You’re going to want to defend yourself. But the other person is so emotionally revved up, it’s not going to help. Remember, this is not about you. Don’t take it personally. (I know, easier said than done.)
- Don’t return anger with anger. Raising your voice, pointing your finger, or speaking disrespectfully to the other person will add fuel to an already heated situation. Use a low, calm, even monotone voice. Don’t try to talk over the person. Wait until the person takes a breath and then speak.
- Don’t argue or try to convince the other person of anything.
- Keep extra space between you and the other person. Your instinct may be to try to calm the other person down by putting your arm on theirs, or some other similar gesture that may be appropriate in other contexts. But if someone is already upset, avoid touch, as it might be misinterpreted.
- Saying, “I’m sorry,” or, “I’m going to try to fix this,” can go a long way toward defusing many situations.
- Set limits and boundaries. While some of the above tips have encouraged listening and letting the angry person vent, you also have the right to be assertive and say, “Please don’t talk to me like that.”
- Trust your instincts. If your gut is saying, this is going downhill fast, be ready to do what you need to do to remain safe. Look for an exit strategy.
- One response does not fit all. You have to remain flexible. Although these guidelines have proven effective in de-escalating tough situations, every person is unique and may respond differently.
- Debrief. After the situation is over, talk to someone about what happened.
- Discharge your own stress. You had to put your natural reactions on hold for a while. Now is the time to discharge some of that pent up adrenaline. Go for a run. Take your dog for a walk. Don’t let the emotions stay stuck in your body.
- Give yourself credit for getting through an uncomfortable situation. It takes a lot of energy not to act like a jerk when someone else is behaving badly. Don’t skip this step!