Because arguments so often escalate into verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse, this topic warrants additional discussion. Let’s take a look at situations that typically lead to escalation, and suggestions on how to handle these situations differently:
- You dominate conversations, leaving the other person with little space to talk. This causes the other to pen up anger until he/she finally explodes. [Suggestion: Avoid monologues. Pause at frequent intervals, and allow the other to respond, so that you’re truly conversing, rather than giving a speech.]
- You blame the other for the problems in the relationship. [Suggestion: Consider what role you play in the problem.]
- You can’t control your own anger when the other person gets angry. [Suggestion: Focus on what the other is trying to express. Say something like, “In other words,….” or “So you felt that….” and add, “I imagine that makes you feel….” Responding in this way helps to defuse the other’s anger, because he/she feels heard.]
- You control what the other person can talk about. [Suggestion: If a topic is uncomfortable, explore within yourself what it is triggering. It is most likely an indication of an area that needs work on your part.]
- You engage in the one-up/one-down loop. [Suggestion: See The Escalation of Anger, Part 1.]
As you can see, awareness is a healthy first step in any of these situations. In any of your interactions, be mindful of the impact your words or actions have on the other person and on the relationship. Don’t minimize the effect of what you say and do. Recognize when you are being emotionally abusive, and takes steps to change.