How to Navigate Your Way Through an Argument

7 10 2011

Arguments are an inevitable part of any relationship and I don’t just mean romantic relationships. Arguments happen with family, friends, co-workers and even that one waiter at that one restaurant that one time.

The key to healthy, lasting relationships is to remember that arguments are not about winning. They are about resolving a conflict so that every party involved feels ok with it. Conflicts must be approached with a calm and clear head. Doing so requires getting all three of your brains aligned.

That’s right, I said 3 brains

According to the Triune Brain model, our brains consist of three parts: the reptilian brain, the paleomammalian brain and the neomammalian brain. The reptilian brain is responsible for our most basic animal instincts like aggression and territoriality. The paleomammalian brain gives us an emotional connection to certain social activities like sex and parenthood. The neomammalian brain is our rational brain and is responsible for higher level processes like language and planning.

Understanding Your Mind in an Argument

Reptilian:

Our reptilian brain is the one that gets us into arguments in the first place. It’s what gives us the feeling of being attacked and it’s what gets us feeling defensive. For the most part, the days where we physically fight out our problems are over. But if we hear words that we deem as a verbal attack, our reptilian brain wakes up and gets us in alert mode.

Emotional:

It’s pretty clear what part our emotional brain is responsible for. Any feelings of anger, sadness, loss or need are due to the emotional brain.

Rational:

The rational brain sounds like it would be the one to get us safely out of any disagreements. I mean, ‘rational’ is right there in the name. But really, it is the rational brain that gives rise to those “What are we even arguing about?” moments and perpetuates conflicts longer than they need to be.

The rational brain is dangerous because it justifies our emotions. But of course, emotions are not rational and so we just get wrapped up in empty logic. We continue to argue our point even after the initial emotion has faded away. There is no faster way to saying something you regret than to let your rational brain take these justifications too far.

How to Resolve the Argument

During conflicts, the three brains roll into one to form one giant fire-breathing arguing machine. The way to turn back from machine to a normal level-headed person is to deal with each brain separately.

1. Disengage the reptilian brain

You need to calm down those feelings of being attacked and getting defensive. Unfortunately, unless you’re a Zen master, this usually requires the passing of time. So take a break from the argument and come back when you’re not on edge.

2. Identify your emotions

Next we move onto the emotional brain. Here what’s important is finding out exactly which emotions you are experiencing. What’s tricky about this is that because your rational brain has been mucking around in there, messing things up, the emotions you think you’re feeling aren’t the ones actually affecting you.

Addressing your emotions separately from rationality requires a little meditation. If sitting like a pretzel and saying ohms aren’t your thing, try going for a walk or doing a menial, repetitive task. These take up just enough brain power to let your emotional brain bubble to the surface uncensored (as weird as it sounds, I like doing the dishes to meditate).

3. Let your rational brain be rational

Now that you’ve calmed down and know where you really stand in the disagreement, let your rational brain do what it does best: use it to organize this information into a solution. Communicate your newly discovered emotions to the other person with clarity, caution and sensitivity.

What You Can Do Right Now

Think about the last time you had an argument. What did you say? Would you go back and change that if you could? What were the emotions you felt? Do you still feel the same way?

If you successfully process this argument through your 3 brains, approach the person you were arguing with and see if you can kiss and make up.

Comment below and tell us how your three brains have been getting along.

Image from emotionaldetective.typepad.com





The 8 Minute Total Life Workout

14 09 2011

Losing weight is one of the most popular New Year’s (or anytime) resolutions every year. We’re also notorious for consistently failing at it. We start off enthusiastic and committed but quickly trail off into inaction and indifference. A huge part of the problem is that we are so conditioned to expect and believe in instant gratification. High ambitions plus low patience leads to a lot of people giving up easily.

The Fallacy

Many weight loss programs promise drastic, life-changing results after just 30 days of 8 minute, total body workouts. And there are mystery super fruit detox diets that promise to help you lose 15 pounds in a week.

Sure, quick fix solutions can return temporary results. But how many people lose weight only to gain it right back again? How many people achieve some success only to stagnate after the first week?

To achieve lasting results, you need to develop the slow and steady habits of high performers. They are regimented, disciplined and educated in proven methods.

Workout Your Life

Making any kind of positive change in life requires a similar approach. Typically, you only have to make a few, simple, common sense changes – but you have to work hard to turn them into life-long habits.

In essence, self improvement is like a workout to get your life in the best possible shape. So let’s take some lessons from fitness professionals and apply them to the process of life change.

Work One Muscle Group at a Time

A former co-worker was the kind of guy you’d probably call a meathead. His biggest everyday concerns were drinking protein shakes, working out and showing off his biceps.

One day he would work his arms, another day he would work on his legs and the next day he would work on his core.

Focusing on just one muscle group a day provides two advantages. First, you work on the focus area more thoroughly. Second, you avoid the exhaustion and susceptibility to injury that overworking can cause.

Focusing on just one area at a time is a great strategy for self improvement too. If you try and change everything all at once, you risk getting overwhelmed and losing control. Taking on too much and letting your life spin out of control is like ripping your Achilles tendon while training for a marathon.

Take a Day Off

Gym rats don’t workout all day, every day and that is part of why they are able to maintain their exercise habits. Going full speed ahead every single day of the week makes even the most dedicated of people tired and bored. And of course, just like working out too much at a time, working out too often leaves you more susceptible to injury.

Taking a day or even a week off of a high intensity life goal is not just ok, but necessary for your success. Allow yourself time to rest and recharge.

Hitting a Plateau is not a Bad Thing

For top athletes and type A personality change-seekers alike, “plateau” is a 4 letter word. It’s understandably frustrating to reach a point where you don’t progress no matter how much energy you put in.

Plateaus are, however, inevitable in weight loss and in personal growth. In fitness, the answer to a plateau is to increase intensity and change up your routine. In personal development, however, it is better not to worry about overcoming your plateau but to embrace it instead.

Experts say it takes anywhere from 2 weeks to 21 days or 2 months to form a habit.. Adjusting to and internalizing the changes we make takes time. So really, what feels like a plateau is just the period where your hard work crystallizes into a healthy habit.

The Real Life Workout Plan

So there is no miracle 30 day program to realize the changes you’d like to see in your life. There are, however, fundamental processes to help you achieve your goals and make them last.

  1. Pick just one aspect of your life you’d like to change or develop. Either a relationship, your health, your productivity.
  2. Identify one simple actionable step to begin with. Make it small and manageable. It could be committing to one fully devoted date night a week with your spouse or cutting down to just one slice of cheesecake a week.
  3. Only hold yourself responsible for that one thing. If you decide to go above and beyond every once in a while, great, but don’t let it interfere with the step you’re focusing on. Don’t get ahead of yourself and don’t stress or feel guilty for not achieving more.
  4. Maintain it for a month. Or more or less. Either way, practice the step you are taking until it becomes subconscious or second nature.
  5. Assess and move forward. If you’ve made it this far successfully, think about the next small step you can add to your routine. If you haven’t fared so well, break the goal you set in step 2 down even further into something more manageable.

The reality of working out and self improvement is simple: consistent hard work. What separates the successful from the “yo yo dieters” of life is that they know how much bite off at one time and they know how to pace themselves.

What resolution do you keep making but never achieve? Are you guilty of committing some of these “workout” mistakes?

Try the Real Life Workout Plan for yourself and let us know how it goes!

Image from http://www.scientificamerican.com