We’ve all been there.
You feel the adrenaline kick in, your face gets hot, and you are suddenly ready to say things you may never be able to take back. Whether the argument is with a friend, coworker, family member, or a complete stranger, you really don’t know how things will turn out. Hopefully it does not escalate into violence! You cannot necessarily control the situation, but in those first few seconds you can control yourself.
You need to understand how you react normally to these situations. There are four basic reactive responses. “Fight” instinct will take an aggressive position. “Flight” will have you leave the situation entirely. “Freeze” will leave you unable to respond. “Fawn” instinct will have you doing anything to please the other party. So, realizing how we have responded in the past will help you avoid these situations in the future. Remember that the “Fight” response will usually lead to the most long-lasting damage.
Be aware that these responses are affecting you at a subconscious level. Our brains do this so that we can react quickly in a dangerous situation. You need to know how to identify the “fight” impulse and learn to react logically. Try to mimic the feeling of “fight” in your body. Where do you feel it? Does it have a color? Does it feel numb or tingly? Memorizing the way “fight” feels will allow you to recognize it in the future.
Once you realize the “fight” response there are ways to stay calm in a fight. The best way to deal with this situation is to remove yourself. You can go into another room and scream into a pillow. Start typing in your notes app everything bothering you until you calm down, then delete it. Take a moment to soothe yourself. Do one of your favorite physical activities, like yoga or a brisk walk. This will bring you back into a safe place where logic rules.
Of course, there are times when removing yourself is not possible. But as we now recognize the signs of the “fight” response we have time to calm down before things get out of hand. Breathe deeply. Often that will be enough to stave off a bad response. Summon all the restraint you can until you can leave. Remember that the fallout from a fight could be long lasting and might not be able to be fixed!
Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago