Let’s face it, we all argue, so we may as well learn how to argue well, and learn how to turn arguments into experiences that improve, not harm, our mental health and relationships! In this podcast (episode #248), I discuss the best ways to manage arguments and intense emotions like frustration and anger (based on my personal and professional experience), and I walk you through how to use my 5 step Neurocycle for dealing with arguments.
First, let me give you some background on a recent argument I had:
One morning I woke up feeling really anxious. We needed to do things differently in our business. I felt a wired, on-edge, frustrated sense of urgency. If I am being totally honest, I was a mental mess! I was upset things weren’t always on schedule or going as planned, and it was affecting my mental state.
The more I ruminated on how I felt and my worries, the more anxious and frustrated I got. But I got ready to go to my fitness class at Orange Theory with my second eldest daughter, who is my producer and social media and marketing manager. I thought an intense workout would do me good, but I didn’t realize quite how worked up I was until my daughter said something to me about work and I snapped back at her; the next minute we were having an argument outside Orange Theory in the car, waving our hands and raising our voices. Thankfully my windows are tinted!
In retrospect, I was being downright unreasonable, because she had asked me a very practical question; the subject matter triggered me and I reacted badly. Anyway, we both stormed into Orange Theory and proceeded to do a workout with more than our normal intense vigor!
As my anger dissipated on the treadmill (I didn’t even get tired doing a long fast endurance run on an incline!), I started thinking about the situation and decided to apply a Neurocycle, a system of mind-management I have developed and refined over the past three decades. It can be applied to any situation to get out of a mental mess (which we examined in our most recent clinical trials and I discuss in detail in my upcoming book, Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess)
As I pounded out on the treadmill and rower and weight floor, here’s what I did:
- I gathered awareness of my emotional and physical warning signals. I was on edge and frustrated, and realized I had felt this way since I woke up. My whole body was tensed up and my toes had gone into a spasm as I argued with my daughter.
- Next, I reflected on what had happened and put my thoughts, words and actions on trial. I realized my daughter’s tone of voice and choice of words triggered me; I was already agitated by my frustration, so this experience just added to it. I found myself criticizing her in my mind and not looking at myself. I then realized I was seeing her through an old lens of how she used to be, and I had reacted to that instead of really listening to her wisdom. I then reflected on my reaction, which was awful, and this combination made me feel so guilty and ashamed that I nearly dropped a weight on my head!
- Then I “wrote” my thoughts down through visualizing. I visualized exactly what had happened, what I had said and what she had said, and acknowledged and embraced the guilt, shame and hurt I was feeling, because she had said some harsh stuff as well—sometimes it is hard not to react badly in the moment!
- I then did a recheck by channeling the guilt, shame and hurt into a constructive reconceptualization of the situation. I saw these emotions as helpful, giving me information about my situation–I made them work for me, and objectively deconstructed and reconstructed the entire argument. This helped me see what she was really trying to say, and what I was really trying to say. Lo and behold, we were trying to say the same thing!
- I then did an active reach: I made a decision to apologize to her, take responsibility for my part, and point out how we were saying the same thing, as well as tell her what hurt me and give her a chance to explain what she meant.
As the class ended, she and I looked at each other, and she said sorry before I could get my words out! She had been neurocycling through the class as well! We proceeded to have a very constructive discussion about our argument and what it meant and ended up having a wonderful work day! It could so easily have gone the other way—we could have ignored each other, argued more, and not resolved the issue. But we did two really constructive things instead:
- We calmed our brains and bodies down with exercise.
- We used mind-management to control our thinking (using the Neurocycle).
Mind-management is a skill we can all learn—even in the middle of an argument! My daughter handled this argument better than I would have at her age because she has learned this skill. I am a better mother because I have continued to keep developing my mind-management skills—because I know that I also end up in a mental mess often. This is why I wrote my most recent book and why I continue to do research. Cleaning up your mental mess is a skill you can learn, one that will bring you mental peace and improve your brain health. I have seen this in my life, and you can too!
This podcast was sponsored by:
Public Goods (My preferred online goods store, which has everything you need, from natural cleaning products and foods to sustainable house goods). Receive $15 off your first Public Goods order with NO MINIMUM purchase. Just go to https://www.publicgoods.com and use code DRLEAF at checkout.
NOOM (A great way to develop healthier habits, reduce your risk of chronic health problems, reverse disease, and foster a healthier relationship with yourself and others! I love using NOOM to keep track of my exercise routine and make sure I am eating well every day): For your special offer see: noom.com/DRLEAF
1:40 How to argue better
5:30 How I handled a recent argument with my daughter
7:35 Why exercise and deep breathing are great tools to calm down the mind
10:15 How mind-management helped me turn the argument into a constructive experience
20:00 You too can learn how to clean up your mental mess!
This podcast and blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.