The art of communication is something we all have to a greater or lesser degree. It’s funny how this great and usually natural ability breaks down when we try to communicate with the people close to us. I have lost count of the many times well educated, good communicators have worked with me over the years and they have lost the art of communication with the people closest to them and this can result in arguments.
When people engage in arguments they feel they are communicating, albeit loudly or aggressively. In fact an argument is a verbal battle and communication is lost in the struggle to win or achieve a superior position over the other person and in order for one person to 'win', the other must 'lose'.
Arguments are based in insecurities - by using argumentative language to win, rather than have calm discussion, then we must feel insecure. We shout or use aggressive language in order to create security.
To help people who are stuck in arguments I use a particular intervention called, "Time Out" so people can engage in a constructive way and not a destructive way. Time Out is just a phrase to help people understand the process; any phrase can be used which works for the couple, but not in their ordinary, everyday language and cannot be confused for ordinary speech. It is known to both of them, and is established in advance.
The phrase signals to them that the emotion in the room is escalating and it is time to call a halt, before a full blown argument ensues. It enables people to stop arguments, as long as it is honored and respected.
They also agree a time span; this is the amount of time it would take each party to calm down, to bring their temper under control. When either of the parties realize that it is going into an argument phase, call their phrase and the other party respects their decision.
They then move out of each others face and space up to the time limits they agreed to as being the length of time needed for them to calm down.
Sometimes one person may chase the other to bring a conclusion to the argument whilst the other will try to withdraw to protect them self. Sometimes this kind of argument can lead to violence; the one who wants to escape cannot, and so will lash out in order to escape.
Similarly, a cornered rat will try to jump over you to escape but if it cannot then it will attack you to protect itself.
When the parties can respect and honor this "Time Out" process then they are more able to move forward and start work on why they need to argue in the first place. This then involves them listening to each other instead of talking at each other, as only by listening can you fully understand another. Understanding why arguments occur creates the correct conditions to help them to be more secure and move them on to using a better communication structure; their language can sometimes have an aspect of telling not asking.
Seventh Ray on 10/01/2010