In this podcast (episode #341) and blog, I talk about ways to reset and reconnect after a fight or argument.
Arguing with friends, family members or loved ones is inevitable. It’s impossible for us to get along all the time, especially when we spend a lot of time with certain people, such as during the holiday season.
We are all unique, and we all see the world in different ways. This is a wonderful thing. It makes the world interesting—it makes living in this world a wonderful learning experience. However, it can also lead to a lot of misunderstandings, miscommunications, and conflicting opinions!
It is important that even when these arguments or misunderstandings come up, we find ways to make amends—to bridge the divide as best we can. Yes, this can be a challenge, and it can take some time, but it is possible.
Here are some simple tips you can follow to reconnect with a loved one, colleague, or friend after a fight:
The first thing to remember after a fight, especially when you feel sad, angry, or frustrated, is that arguments between friends, family, and loved ones are normal.
In many cases, these arguments allow for healthy emotional expression and can help prevent the buildup of resentment or grudges. It can also help you better understand the other person and help them understand you. Arguments may even lead to better boundary setting because both you and the other person communicate what you can and can’t deal with. Arguments can also lead to compromise, an essential part of any relationship.
A reasonable amount of arguing is actually quite ordinaryand can be healthy because it is in the messiness we can repair and grow. No “mess” means there is nothing to repair or change, which means no growth. It’s how you argue that is key!
Most likely, the fight involved many emotions, as well as some accusations and defense mechanisms. Even if you managed to get the root issue resolved, your cortisol levels are probably still quite high. This is why it may be a good idea to take a break and distance yourself from the other person for a little bit—see this as gathering and processing time. Work on calming yourself down; go for a walk, do some deep breathing, practice yoga, or whatever works for you.
Once you have managed to calm down, it is always a good thing to readdress some of the issues or problems that led to the argument. This doesn’t have to happen on the same day—you may even need a few days to process what happened or calm down. There is no set way or time to do this, but re-addressing the issues can lead to healthy conversations, compromises or boundaries that could prevent further arguments in the future.
I know that doing a “review” of sorts may seem stressful or repetitive, and you may feel like you just want it to go away and move on, but this can be beneficial. Think about how, with certain people, you tend to have the same fight over and over again. When you “redress and assess” the fight, you can really get to the core of why you disagreeand possibly prevent it from happening again. This is particularly important if you could not resolve the issue in the heat of the moment.
Sorry is a powerful word. It acknowledges the other person’s pain, anger, sadness or frustration, and indicates that you don’t want them to feel that way. This can be very tough to do because our pride often gets in the way, but it can also be incredibly freeing, especially if followed by action so the apology doesn’t seem like an empty gesture.
One great way to reconnect after a fight is to tell a little joke or bring up a funny topic or memory that you both have in common. When you laugh with someone, you are literally resetting your brain and reestablishing the connection that you have.
Make sure you get to the root of why you had the fight, or it may happen again in the future. One way I recommend doing this is using mind management to do a mental “autopsy” on why you both reacted in the way you did.
To this end, I recommend doing a Neurocycle—the 5-step mind-management system I have developed over the past 38 years that is based on my research and practice. (I discuss this in detail in my book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, my app Neurocycle and in my recent clinical trials.) The 5 steps are:
1. Gather Awareness of how you feel about the argument emotionally and physically. What are your warning signals? Frustration? Depression? Anxiety? Irritability?Does your brain feel tired even though your mind doesn’t want to stop? Are you battling with gut and intestinal issues like bloating? Are you experiencing bursts of aggression? Are you more irritable than normal?
2. Reflect on why you feel the way you do. Go through each of these warning signals and ask yourself “Why?” Dig deep and be honest with yourself. Ask yourself questions like “Why am I frustrated? I’m frustrated because…”
3. Write this all down to help organize your thinking and get more insight into what is going on in your life.
4. Recheck what you have written and reflected on. Take each of the warning signals you have gathered, reflected on, and written down above, and see them for what they are: signals that something is going on in your relationship that needs to be addressed. Then, work out a relationship“antidote” (new thought pattern/behavior) for each one.
5. Active reach. Take action to work on the issue you are dealing with in your relationship. But, remember to give yourself and the other person grace! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it will take time to develop this newly reconceptualized way of responding, so keep on keeping on.