Have you ever thought: ‘If my partner and I could improve our communication skills, we’d be able to resolve our issues and finally argue less?’ I hear that from my clients all the time.
There’s a plethora of communications workshops for couples. You may have tried something out. I know I have. Being a better communicator and listener is a worthy goal. The challenge is that this is not the right solution for reducing arguments. No wonder most couples that attend communication workshops will have stopped using the technique within 6 months.
It’s understandable that people often end up giving up on communication tools. Communication techniques are often awkward and hard to use. They feel weirdly unnatural. The ones I’ve personally encountered and tried out myself are techniques that would take hundreds of hours to master doing well. On top of that, they would work best with ample effort and willingness on both sides.
Looking through a brain science lens, it makes sense that communication tools are a tricky fix for arguments. Once you are feeling triggered, your brain moves into survival mode. In survival mode, areas of the brain that mange reasoning and rationalizing get suppressed or even turned off. This is natural: your brain has been adapted to do this so that the part of your brain that is focused on survival gets priority. The disadvantage is that your ability to communicate is mediated by the rational, thinking part of your brain and it’s less available to you when you are triggered.
It might look hopeless, but it’s not. I help clients become less frequently and less intensely triggered so that they can stay in a rational state. We explore what is triggering for them while they are calm instead of in the middle of an argument. With the right techniques, we are able to really find the emotional roots of the trigger. With that understanding, clients don’t keep tripping into survival mode. The top tool I use is Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)—it lets you rapidly and gently get to the underlying reasons for behaviors that are showing up. I have blogged about an actual case study of a couple who were able argue less.
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