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To Discuss or Argue?

By Jeremy Ireland on March 8, 2021 in Other

Huffin’ and Puffin’ photo: James Gribble

Have you ever had an argument where you felt you were right and the other person was just plain wrong? Maybe it was over a simple thing like whose turn it was to take out the garbage, or perhaps something a little heavier like having a go at a stranger for not wearing a mask.
Conflict is a fact of life. Furthermore, from a romantic standpoint, you are more likely to have an argument with your partner than anyone else, and the icing on the cake is the longer you have known your special someone, the greater the chance of experiencing conflict simply because you spend more time with them, know more about one another and expect more from each other.
Conflict often involves anger, which is a subjective, emotional experience. Anger is a feeling, and like any emotion it has the ability to physically arouse you. Your thoughts, perception and the things you notice around you all change when you experience an emotion.
Why does one get angry? People tend to get mad when their expectations are violated. If you’re expecting someone to behave a certain way and they don’t you get angry. You may feel justified about your anger, I mean, WTF, how dare that dog owner let his Groodle shit on my lawn and not pick it up?!
Dog turds aside, the only person who can make you angry is you. Like all emotions, anger is created by your cognitions. It’s a thought process and a perception that is creating the emotional response – an interpretation, if you like. Your feelings result from the meaning you give the event, not from the event itself, so what we have is an ‘external’ event – the actions of other people – and an ‘internal’ event – the way we think about their actions. The important thing to realise here is that the external event is not within your control, but you can control how you react to it. Our thoughts directly affect the way we feel, and how we feel directly affects the way we behave. So, it is us who have the ability to control the anger depending how much meaning we give to what the other person has done.
Here’s an example of our ‘thoughts, feelings, behaviour’ model. Say you see someone throw a cigarette butt on the ground. If you think, ‘That guy’s an ignorant jerk, how dare he do that?’ your feelings might turn to anger, which impacts your behaviour and results in you telling him off. If we think differently about the event we could have a different outcome. If you thought, ‘He was going to do that anyway, he probably doesn’t even realise he’s littering,’ then you are placing less meaning on the event because you have changed the way you have thought about it, resulting in less anger.
If the event is a little more serious and you feel you have been genuinely wronged it’s worth considering that impulsive outburst of anger will eventually defeat you in the long-term. Is the pain and suffering you are inflicting upon yourself exceeding the impact of the original insult?
The best way to deal with someone who is really giving you the shits is to negotiate. First, we should stop, breathe and think. Instead of telling them off, compliment them on what they did right and then tactfully mention the problem. Then, agree with them regardless of how much you think they’re wrong. This will disarm them and take the wind from their sails. Then you immediately pounce and clarify your point of view, calmly and firmly.
So is it healthy to let off steam? I’ll sit on the fence, but anger ultimately leads to self-defeating behaviour and negative impacts on stress and health. By dumping the anger you dump the irritability you’re harnessing, you’ll become more productive, experience liberation and be at peace. Amen.

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