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Thursday, July 12, 2007

S.T.O.P.-- A 4-Step Strategy for Handling Conflicts

S.T.O.P.-- A 4-Step Strategy for Handling Conflicts Without Hurting Your Relationship

By Betsy Sansby, MS

Brain researchers have found that when people are scared, hurt, or angry, they're physiologically incapable of thinking straight. Stress hormones flood the body and cause the rational part of the brain to shut down, and the irrational part to take over. That’s why angry people don’t talk to each other, they rant and rave--or work on their trucks.

The S.T.O.P. Strategy will help you calm down when you're upset, so you can gain perspective and reconnect from a better place. The best way to use it is to practice the four steps often, and to start using the strategy during a low-level conflict. That way, when things get really hot, you'll already know how to use it. Here are the four steps:

1. STOP! As soon as you notice yourself getting uncomfortable with the way your conversation is going, STOP! Then say: I need a time out. This tells your partner you need a break, without blaming her (him) for your discomfort.

2. TIME OUT. Time out means physically separating from each other in order to stop the hurt. It means going away for a short time (30-60 minutes) and coming back after both of you have calmed down and have completed Step 3: OWN YOUR PART.

· Brain researchers have found that once the heart is beating 95 bpm or above, the thinking brain (neocortex) shuts down and the emotional brain (amygdala) takes over. This means it does no good to keep arguing when you’re both upset, because the reasonable part of your brain is no longer listening.

John Gottman’s research on marital satisfaction found that couples who disengage when things start heating up, and try again after both people are calmer, stay together and report greater satisfaction in their relationships.

3. OWN YOUR PART. This means taking responsibility for your part in creating the problem. It means calming yourself down, analyzing your behavior, and redirecting your energy away from attacking or defending.
Most people believe they’ve won if they’ve gotten their spouse to do things their way. Don’t mistake submission for devotion, or obedience for love.
Every act of overt muscling by one partner leads to 2 equally powerful acts of covert defiance by the other!

Examples and step four on the next post, so tune in again!

1 comment:

Robin Johns Grant said...

I know from experience how true it is about the rational side shutting down when anger sets in. We've pretty much learned to stop when we're getting angry and wait to cool down. The part I have to work on now is being willing to bring the issue back up AFTER we've cooled down. Sometimes I'm such a wimp about "starting things back up again." Thanks for the helpful advice!

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