We’ve all been involved in heated, tense interactions.
Sometimes it’s with a stranger or an acquaintance; other times with a spouse or child.
What’s remarkable about these times is how easy it is to get sucked into behaving badly.
We can get defensive or even outright offensive, especially if triggered by what the other person is saying to us.
The best thing to do in these situations is to focus on de-escalating the situation rather than escalating it further.
Husband: “Did you get a chance to pick up dinner?”
Wife: “No, I’ve just been too busy today, so you’re gonna have to deal.”
Husband: “Whoa, what the h*ll is that!?!”
Wife: “You’re just always expecting me to be responsible for feeding this family. I have a job too you know!”
Husband: “Well if you weren’t so busy texting your girlfriends all day and calling your mother every day, you’d get out of work sooner and get dinner on the table!”
Wife: “You know what? Go to H*ll!! You don’t appreciate anything I do around here and you never even get you’re a*@ home on the weekends instead of going out fishing with your buddies or playing in your stupid softball league! Your kids never even get to see you!!”
And on and on and ON it goes.
What you’re seeing here is a whole lot of pent up resentments on both parts in all those attacks.
It’s important to understand that people are always ready to be defensive or offensive with one another.
We often carry with us many resentments, whether we know about them consciously or perhaps not, about the injustices of our lives from childhood through to the present day.
It pays, therefore, to know that no matter what the argument or disagreement is about, you’ll always be better off focusing on de-escalating rather than adding fuel to the fire.
Otherwise, you’ll be just another “jerk” in a long line of jerks in the other person’s life and you will instantly become the focus of their resentments.
It’s just human nature: If you’re upset and you try to speak to someone and all they do is fight you back or act defensively with you, you will turn your anger towards THEM and THEY will become the focus of your resentment, anger, and, eventually, even rage.
So start by Listening.
Remember, if you don’t listen first, you will automatically subconsciously get grouped in by the other person with all of the other people who haven’t listened to her in the past or who have wronged her somehow.
And who wants to voluntarily become part of that group? Not me.
Your best bet is to follow my LVAC® mnemonic: Listen, Validate, Ask, Comment.
Step 1: Listen to what the other person is saying, and don’t interrupt them.
Step 2: Try to Validate what they are trying to say. Seldom is it impossible to do this. You don’t have to agree with them necessarily in order to validate their feelings anyway.
Step 3: Ask them some open-ended questions which will help them talk more so that they can narrow down just what it is that’s bothering them. Many people need to start broadly and angrily and need a chance to first say whatever’s on their mind. After listening and validating, asking some open-ended questions and not commenting right away will help them process further their thoughts and emotions.
Step 4: Save your Comments for last, if at all. (Enough said.)
So if someone is talking to you, practice LVAC and avoid putting yourself in the direct line of fire.
You’ll also help them feel better, and they’ll like you more.
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
Author, Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand A Few Things First)
Cobwebs and Ugly Wallpaper