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Problem solving during and after an argument.

All couples fight and argue. Heck, any two people who live together and actually care about each other will eventually run into inter-personal problems. This is a given. But sometimes, the arguments may lead to heightened emotions and heated exchanges that hurt each other.

First, let’s back up and try to understand why two people even end up in an argument.

You could be freaking Dalai Lama and the person next to you might be Gandhi yet you will eventually have friction.

It is just human nature.

We want to fulfill our wishes “our way” and the other person wants to do it their way. In an ideal world, you will have the wisdom to realize that it’s not a zero-sum game and no winners or losers exist between two loving people. Most mature people know to let go of little trivial things. But hey we are talking real life which is messy and imperfect. An occasional issue can rile you up on a beautiful Sunday morning. Here’s my take on why people show emotions during an argument. It means they care. That’s it. No extravagant fancy explanation. Some people are more passionate than others on certain topics. They simply care more. So, when they rise up and voice their feelings, don’t look at it as if they are causing a conflict by intention. They are simply expressing their passion as emotion. And yes, this is acceptable but usually heightened emotions can slide into disrespect and name-calling. Well, that’s when a pause is required. Emotions are OK, yelling is not OK.

Anyway, now that we’ve established why arguments occur, let’s figure out how to solve problems.

An argument only shows that there’s a problem to be solved: Person A wants X and person B doesn’t want X but instead wants Y.

Here’s my tip: Never attempt to solve the root problem “during” an argument. Just solve for the emotional imbalance because of the argument first. Conflicts or arguments produce stress hormones and when you impulsively react without watching your words, adrenaline rushes through your blood because your body erroneously assumes you are in a bloodsport. (Blame evolution!)

And here’s the kick: No important meaningful problem can be solved over cortisol and adrenaline rushes.

Adrenaline can be damaging to the nerve paths and blinds you to the underlying damage and makes you keep going until a “win” emerges. Have you noticed how NBA players continue to jump up and down until they make a slam dunk despite just twisting their ankle? They can’t help themselves when they are hurt and just need one little win. This is how we behave in an argument when we get hurt. The same way you can’t help yourselves during adrenaline rush — you have to complete what you started and get that “win” even when the cost is high.

So the smartest thing to do during an argument with heightened emotions is take a walk outside. Or change up your mood to calm down.

Figure out a way to give your body a way to let out those toxins we discussed above. This is the #1 thing to solve for. Not the deeper problem just the immediate emotional one. Sometimes, doing a “very pleasant” activity might make you feel better. For a lot of people (including me), eating ice cream helps me relax. Try a short run. Lift weights if that’s your thing. You could also call up a friend. Or pet your dog. Anything to calm your nerves to return to normal. It may take 20 minutes or 2 hours, just take a break.

Once you feel you’re ready to have a meaningful wise conversation, engage with the other person with empathy.

A trick I’ve been using for empathy is “assuming my position is wrong” and striking up a conversation to be less wrong. This is a great mechanism I learned from Twitter as opposed to my old habit which was assuming I was 100% right and working to prove how I was so right. This leaves no space for a dialogue.

Not saying any of this is easy. But it is 100% battle-tested, proven and works like magic. (ask me!)

The bottom line is: always solve real meaningful problems with a peaceful calm mind, never during an argument.