Couples: How to Regulate Yourself During Difficult Conversations
Sharing your life with someone means having open and honest conversations, even when those conversations are a bit difficult. But that’s easier said than done.
During hard conversations, it’s common for many people to become triggered by something their partner has said. Calm one moment, but the next, they’re thrown into “fight or flight” mode, their brain-sensing danger. Before they know it, the most primitive part of their brain is activated to help them survive. And this is when things can get ugly because speaking calmly and rationally is pretty impossible when your entire body is in survival mode.
Luckily there are things we can do during difficult conversations to regulate our emotional responses and keep ourselves calm and level-headed.
Pause and Breathe
When you feel triggered, pause and take a few slow, deep breaths. While deep breathing may seem cliche, it is a powerful tool that helps us get out of “fight or flight” mode and into a more relaxed state. When we breathe slowly and deeply, it sends a signal to our brain that we are out of danger.
Use Your Senses
Another effective way to regulate your emotions at the moment is to focus your attention on a physical sensation. You could take a sip of water and feel the sense of drinking, or you could run your fingers along the seam of the sofa cushion.
It is so common in a conversation to listen to form a response. But when we do this, it is far easier to misunderstand what the other person is saying. Be sure to listen to understand, not to form a response.
Difficult conversations are inevitable when you are in any relationship. But if you use these tips to regulate yourself, you can remain calm and communicate effectively with your partner.