One of the most difficult aspects of any relationship––a friendship or an intimate relationship, or business partnership––is arguing. Disagreements can often cause irritation and anger among the participants. Most of us know what it means to “lose our temper”, say hurtful things that we don’t really mean, or spend hours, even days focusing on our disappointment and pain until we’re completely drained of energy.
Yet, there are always those people who seem to go through arguments and still remain positive. How do they do it? How can we apply the principles of mindfulness when we feel like all our buttons have been pushed? Can we control our reactions when we’re upset, or are we solely driven by impulses?
Begin With Yourself
One of the most therapeutic questions in any anger-causing situation is: What does this have to do with me? Why is this making me so angry and upset? Why do I care so much?
Here are more questions for you to reflect on:
- How do I relate to this person?
- How do I relate to this issue?
- Am I being personally offended?
- What are my feelings exactly? Anger? Fear? Frustration? Pain?
- How strong is my attachment to this particular topic? Why?
Acknowledge your feelings and let them be.
Take a Moment
When you start to feel your anger rising, take a moment to calm yourself down and tap into your patience. Go to a restroom or take a glass of water. Use this time to think about why you’re getting sucked into the argument. Is it because of your interlocutor’s desire to argue or because of your own emotions invested in the topic?
Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment in a calm, gentle, and nonjudgemental way. Taking a moment should serve the purpose of clearing your mind and calming it down. Do a breathing exercise. Focus on yourself. Think about your goals and purpose in that specific situation, and try to stay above basic instincts.
Admit It When You’re Wrong
One important aspect of mindfulness is the mindset. Very often arguments simply revolve around desire to win and be right. It’s a primitive need that helps us maintain a positive self-image and fuels our ego, however, that’s all short-term. In the long run, such behavior leaves an impression of being self-sufficient, ignorant, and arrogant.
Being right at all costs and in all situations leads to an extremely unhappy life of continuous resentment and anger. It is also a sign of a fixed mindset that fears any change and learning different things.
Nurturing a growth mindset, among many other things, means being open to challenges, showing interest in different worldviews, as well as allowing yourself the beauty of discovering that you are sometimes wrong.
Admitting that you’re wrong when you really are is a sign of strength and an open mind, and it can bring you and your interlocutor closer to each other.
Speak Your Truth
If the disagreement is persistent, it can be particularly difficult to speak your truth. However, staying true to yourself and expressing how you really feel and what you really think can play a crucial role in calming down the heat of the argument.
People may fear being vulnerable and saying how they really feel in certain situations. However, you’d be surprised how much good honesty brings into a relationship. Even if it’s hard to spit it out, admitting your flaws, staying honest, and being transparent is how you bring mindfulness into an argument.
A gratitude approach to life makes people much more satisfied and happier in general. Daily gratitude practice provides us with a positive mindset in life and keeps our minds open for the good things no matter how hard life can get.
If you’re entering a heated argument, before snapping, challenge yourself to remember what you love and respect in this person or in the topic your argument revolves around. Is it possible that you’re annoyed or upset simply because you care too much? Is there something to be grateful for in this situation that could lower the anger and help you find a mindful mutual understanding?
Play Gandhi Style
If we agree that Gandhi was one of the most mindful people in history, we might as well try his approach to arguments. If you notice your interlocutor starting to lose their temper, do the complete opposite: be gentle, nurturing, caring, supportive, and soft. You can start with using positive language and affirmative words.
This kind of radical practice is literally healing resentment with love. It takes a lot of work on oneself to achieve the ability to do the opposite of what your basic instincts are urging you to do, and do it honestly and straight from the heart, but, it will definitely pay off.
The other conversationalist might think that you’re being silly, but in the end, honesty, love, generosity, forgiveness, and gratitude are contagious just like laughter is, and can definitely help you both calm down.
It’s not easy to stay mindful and calm during a heated argument. The more we are attached to the person involved in the argument, the more complex are the emotions we invest in it. Through the practice of self-care, self-analysis, gratitude, and a growth mindset, anyone can move forward from their basic instincts to controlled reactions and kind, wise approach to handling disagreements.