Here’s a secret to extending your life: Don’t argue or fight with your spouse, children, or friends. A number of research studies establish that your relationships are as important as your diet and your exercise for extending your life. Every time you argue with your kids, you are traumatizing them and shortening your own life.
Researchers found that stresses related to excess demands, conflicts, and arguing were linked to a 50 percent to 100 percent increased risk of death from any cause. Among all these stresses, arguing was the most harmful.
Frequent arguments with partners, relatives, friends or neighbors were associated with a doubling to tripling in the risk of death from any cause, compared with those who said these incidents were rare. Want to live longer? Be peaceful.
Here are six tips on how to turn arguments into peaceful moments:
Isolate your triggers.
We are programmed from experience to react to social situations. This programming is outside of our consciousness and will trigger our combative, argumentative selves without our awareness or control. One useful exercise is to list the top three things your kids or your spouse do that make you angry. For each, identify the day of the week, the time of day, the place, and the social situation. You will be surprised that every angry moment is preceded by almost identical cues. Start looking for the cues and take stock of your feelings and actions when they show up in your life.
Create a list of choices
Instead of yelling, screaming, or arguing, what else could you do? Make a list of choices. Next time you are triggered see if you can try out a different choice. Observe what happens. In other words, be conscious and don’t let your old programming take over.
Pay attention to how you react.
Be alert to your trigger cues. When they start to add up, pay attention. How are you feeling? Frustrated? Unheard? Disrespected? When you are able to label your own feelings coming up from cues that trigger you, you can control what’s going on. Otherwise, you are a slave to your old programming and it will shorten your life.
Ignore the words of the person picking a fight with you.
There are a lot of strategies for dealing with kids, spouses, family members, and friends that are angry and upset. Our default listening mode is to pay attention and give meaning to the angry words people say to us. The Number 1 best way to not become triggered is to ignore the words. No matter how insulting, disrespectful, or threatening the other person is, ignore what they are saying. Once you do this, your ego goes away. You will remain calm and centered. You will not feel like you have to defend yourself and “win.” Try it. It’s an amazingly simple and effective skill.
Listen for the emotions
If you want to calm down an angry child or spouse, listen for the emotions. Almost always, an upset person’s emotions will come in a predictable set of layers. After all, your kids and spouse are programmed too. One simple order of emotional layers is:
Anger and frustration
Disrespect, not feeling listened to, not being heard
When someone becomes angry, his or her strong emotion can trigger you. If we can stay focused on what their emotions are in that moment, you are much less likely to react.
Help the other person understand his or her feelings.
The nicest thing you can do for an emotional person is help her understand her feelings. We assume that we say what we feel and mean. The truth is that we often don’t have a clue about how we are feeling or why we are feeling that way. We are just reacting. If you really want to turn an argument into a deep, peaceful experience, label the emotions of the person arguing with you. A simple statement like, “You are angry and frustrated,” is good enough. You know you are on track when the other person nods her head and says “Yeah!” or something similar.
Don’t trivialize others’ emotions.
Our culture is afraid of emotions that are not confined, orderly, and acceptable. As a consequence, we are not taught how to maintain our own calm in the face of strong emotions. Our programming kicks in and we devalue, trivialize, or diminish others’ emotions. How often have you said or have had the following said to you:
“Why are you making such a big deal out this?”
“You are over-reacting.”
“Get over it.”
“You are being stupid about this.”
There are tens of dozens of other phrases we use to deflect strong emotions away from us. We do this subconsciously. When others use the same phrases on us to deflect our emotional experience, we feel unheard and may become angrier. Because all of this programming is in our subconscious, we can’t learn from it and then we perpetuate the harm to our children.
Want to live a long life? Eat the right foods, get plenty of exercise, and live in peace. Learn how to manage your subconscious programming around emotions. Develop choices when fights break out. Learn how to de-escalate your children’s strong emotions. Practice these skills and your life will change forever.