Emotions can overflow when two people care deeply about a subject. Things can be said and done that are difficult to recover from. Taking time to step back, cool off and reflect on what is actually going on can be a valuable exercise. It can protect everyone from angrily going beyond the point of no return in their relationship.
Let’s look at the importance of taking time to cool off and reflect:
- Taking a break can allow the situation to regain its perspective. From the results of a game of football to who made the tea last, people can become overwrought at times. A break can allow everyone to calm down and regain a sense of proportion.
- Discover any underlying issues. Often people row over little things, but these are often concealing bigger problems and issues. Someone who always makes the tea may feel taken for granted, disrespected, perhaps used and unappreciated. Often big decisions and considerations get discussed. They have to be discussed because they cannot be ignored, they are so important. Smaller matters are often not raised because there is concern at being thought trivial and petty. But they simmer and over time build up.
- Other people have a different agenda, a different outlook from us. They may be feeling vulnerable, exposed in the relationship. They may have done something wrong and be afraid of being discovered, or they may not be as knowledgeable as they profess and are uneasy. Anger can sometimes be a defensive way to try to cover these issues and avoid discussing them. Cooling off and reflecting can allow us the opportunity to consider what may be going on with them.
- Some self-reflection is often useful in these situations. We sometimes need to question why we are so affected by a matter. Is our self-esteem and confidence so fragile that we have to argue and fight to be right? Sometimes stopping and reflecting can allow us to see ourselves clearly and consider how we are behaving. It can be a valuable lesson and enable us to calm down, apologise and maybe look to change or modify our behaviour in the future.
- Being magnanimous can be an important gesture at times. Allowing someone else to ‘win’ can be worth it if we feel that the relationship will improve as a result. I sometimes say to my clients that even if they win an argument they may lose the relationship. Sometimes the price of winning is too high. And the other person may well respect us more for being gracious.
- Learn from difficult situations. If we have an unpleasant pattern developing in our relationship, cooling off can allow us the opportunity to appreciate how destructive it is. Some people enjoy volatile relationships. They enjoy the highs and lows, the adrenalin and the making up afterwards. But it can also be a distressing pattern to live with and over time become quite an exhausting way to live. Cooling off can enable us to decide to change that pattern and manage disagreement more humanely and respectfully. We can learn to spot the warning signs earlier, discuss things at a better time and in a more respectful way.
In conflict situations it is important to weigh up what the real story is behind the scenes. We can react and retaliate equally angrily or we can respond after we have considered the whole picture. Deciding to keep control, look at the bigger picture and determine whether or not we want to damage the relationship is the best reason to take a break and cool off. Deciding do we really want to damage the relationship and the goodwill we have established is an important key to how we behave.
Susan Leigh is a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist who works with
- stressed individuals to promote confidence and self belief,
- couples in crisis to help improve communications and understanding
- with business clients to help support the health and motivation levels of individuals and teams
For more information see http://www.lifestyletherapy.net