Do you ever have arguments where you think that you should prep for them? Maybe they aren’t even arguments when you start out. You might be prepping for a conversation or a heated discussion but it some how turns in to a fight? I mean prep in the sense of planning out what you’re going to say and how. Then you throw in a couple of assumptions about what the other person might say and how you’ll respond. If you’re anything like me you can be in the argument, I mean strategizing for the conversation, for a long time, hours even, before you ever invite that other person in. I can spend so much time fighting with a person prior to actually bringing them in that we may have had the fight, made-up, and started a new fight all before I said a word out loud. To be honest it really didn’t even matter who they were with either. It could be a friend, a family member, someone at work, but my specialty was with a significant other.
If you’re nodding along with me in this I hope you’ll agree the intent is to be prepared for the conversation. Preparation is supposed to make you more rational and patient during the actual disagreement but instead, that sort of “preparation” set me up for failure every time. Now I should add that I have vastly improved since my youth (and also since just a few short years ago) I started realizing how much of a disadvantage that was putting me in. I started to see that having the whole thing planned out only got me more angry than I needed to be. It got me to spiral about things I wasn’t even upset about in the first place. It was having the opposite of the desired effect. So instead I started asking myself, what’s the end gain?
I started to consider what I wanted to feel after the conversation or disagreement was over. I don’t mean what sort of emotions do you have during the argument, we all know those. I’ll not speak for you I guess; I’ll speak for me. When I have gotten in fights in the past with a boyfriend, or even with my now husband early on, I would get stuck in the emotions and they would spiral. It went something like this. I felt ignored or taken for granted in some way. I made a point of preparing to list all the ways I was taken advantage of which made all of the emotions of those moments come back. I would dwell on those emotions searching for the right words to articulate them ultimately coming to words much too extreme for the specific instance that sparked the need for the discussion. (I am sure you can see how that same basic outline could apply in a plethora of different relationships but your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife would like most often be the lucky recipient of all this preparation.) Those immediate emotions were killing me and I wasn’t getting the feeling that I wanted afterward. I wanted to feel appreciated, understood, heard but I couldn’t even get there because I was spending all my time spiraling. By focusing on what I wanted to feel in the end I’m able to get there. I may not have all the best words to most accurately describe what I’m experiencing in the moment but who cares, I advanced the ball where I needed to.
If you read this far thinking, this is not me, I have no idea what she’s talking about, first of all kudos on the commitment to getting to the end, second think of it in another area of life. How many projects or proposals at work have you procrastinated on or not done as well as you know you could have because you were so focused on planning every detail that you missed the bigger picture? How many times did you skip going to the gym because you couldn’t work out the exact right plan to balance strength and cardio and even if you did how would you get Nothing-Else-To-Do Nancy off the Stairmaster when you needed it?
Bottom line is, how you (and the other person) feel in the end and what you walk away with is infinitely more important than the emotion you’re experiencing in the moment. Taking a step back from in the moment emotion to prioritize the big picture will serve you better in the end. Yes you need to understand where you’re starting from to know what feeling you want to get to but a concise and objective description will work much better than a painstakingly detailed one any day.