After having a disagreement with a loved one, sometimes the last thing we feel like doing is bringing the topic back up, especially if we do not see a resolve happening any time soon. But in actuality, taking time to have a healing-based conversation can result in feeling more connected and help build the relationship. These connection-building conversations help us feel safe in sharing our feelings in the future, even if we aren’t able to agree on the discord’s topic: connection is more important than being right.
When we are “worked up,” our nervous system is in hyperdrive, and this is not the time to have a productive conversation. Our brains aren’t ready to be empathic, express feelings productively, or even let our bodies sit calmly and make eye contact. Now, is the best time to model self-regulating during times of stress is to take deep breaths, listen to calming music, make a cup of tea, or engage in exercise or mediation. Once your nervous system is regulated, you are ready to talk. It is important to note that children are the same; their body needs to regulate before repairs can even be an option. Modeling this for them helps them see that even adults can become overwhelmed at times, and through various coping techniques, one can regulate their body.
What is the purpose of this conversation? If it is to make your point heard, then take some more time decompressing. You will not be heard, understood, or help build emotional connections; but rather extend the discord, widening the gap between you and your partner, child, or friend. After an argument, the purpose of healing-based conversations is to repair the damage caused by the situation and create moments of connection.
Fortunately, the human brain’s neuroplasticity benefits us as we learn better ways of relating, especially in these repairing moments. Research in the early 2000’s proved that our brains are continuously building neurons and, more importantly, new synaptic connections, showing that we can rewire our brains to connect in new, healthier, and more resilient ways. How great is it to know that we are able to continuously learn new skills that help us feel more connected to our loved ones!
Time to Talk
By engaging in a conversation about how each other feels, making sure to respond with emotion-focused statements, empathy and connection can begin to repair the disconnect. By using “I statements” and emotion-focused words, the energy turns from high to low, making it easier to understand as well as feel understood. Eye contact and open non-verbal communication help make the other person feel like you are there to understand them, not fight for what you believe. Clarify what you hear them saying, letting them know that you listen to them, not just letting them have time to talk. This will help them be more open to hearing you and how you are feeling.
Conversations with Children
Children are frequently searching for control and can say many things to parents that can trigger frustration, leading to discord. These disagreements can feel scary to children, as they don’t have the coping skills to handle all of the occurring feelings. Parents can facilitate learning these skills by modeling the coping techniques to calm their bodies and have healing-based conversations. Caregivers can facilitate this after witnessing a fight between siblings or friends. Teaching them to use “I feel” statements and feelings-based language when in a disagreement will help them learn to repair these relationships functionally. They experience that it feels good to walk away after a disagreement feeling understood and more connected to the other person. In turn, this helps children initiate repair building talks with their parents, siblings, and friends.
Humans are always searching for connections to others: Do you see me? Do you hear me? Am I important to you? The connections built are what matter more than the actual topic at hand. The feelings we have during and as a result of these conversations impact us the most, not the argument’s actual outcome.