Anger is an emotion that can come on quickly or develop over time. It often is between 2 people and as we become more and more angry with someone else, we can lose perspective on the other person’s motives and feelings. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of criticizing and placing blame on others to help relieve the intense emotions, and/or to become defensive about our actions.
Placing criticism on others is a negative pattern that may help us to get through a particular situation, but in the long run it can make the person on the receiving end lose self-esteem, become depressed and distant and have bad feelings towards you. It is a major reason for most divorces as there’s only so much criticism an individual can take day in and day out. While the critical person might think he’s helping his friend or partner by pointing out the other’s inadequacies for improvement purposes, it can come across as attacks and create more friction. Examples of this kind of communication are when someone uses definitive words like “always” or “never” in your statements. “I’m always doing everything around here and you never help out!”
This conversation can make the listener become defensive which further breaks down the relationship. After weeks, months, years of repeatedly receiving critical remarks they protect themselves by putting up walls. They begin to feel like there’s no point in making change or improving themselves because they won’t be able to do anything right anyway. They stop really listening to the message and the tension continues to build until it results in divorce or even physical abuse.
In order to communicate more effectively, it’s important to take time to reflect and increase your self-awareness. Instead of conducting conversations by criticizing others in a one-sided manner, take some of the responsibility for the argument by working in a more collaborative way. People who are good at conflict management often utilize the following statements to immediately reduce tension, calm down the heat of the moment and lead the conversation on a path towards resolution:
1. “I can see what my part is in all of this.”
2. “I’m sorry. I reacted too strongly and didn’t mean to.”
3. “I might be wrong here, let’s talk about it.”
4. “If you could change my behavior, what would that be?”
5. “You have a valid point of view.”
6. “This is our problem, not your fault.”
7. “I still feel like I’m right, but I’m sorry for the way I reacted.”
8. “Is there anything else you want me to know?”
Keep in mind that every argument has two sides. Always take some time to calm down and try to get in a more positive frame of mind, reminding yourself of positive interactions with this person. When the other person understands that you are ready to listen, it shows that you care about the outcome. Sometimes it’s best to accept the fact that you have different points of view and stop putting one person in the “right” position and the other in the “wrong”.