This past weekend I got into a heated verbal conflict with my sister-in-law. My family almost never fights, but it happened – well done me – and it only stopped because my mom said: (in an angelic voice) “Okay, time for a new conversation.” The fight left both my sister-in-law and I upset. No, I’m not going to bash her in this post… I want to because I’m right… obviously, but I’m not going to bash her. Here’s essentially what the fight sounded like: (me) blah, blah (her) blah, blah, blah (me) well Blah, Blah, Blah (her) oh yeah, well Blah, Blah, Blah (me) Well BLAH you (her) Oh yeah, well BLAH BLAH you. (mom) “Okay, time to stop proving why people say you were an oops.” (me under our breath) “Grrr.” The fight was essentially this intelligent: blah, blah, blah. Even if it started off reasonably intelligent, as tempers rise the intelligence drops until the conversation ends up with simple, rude responses: (me) “Screw you.” (other) “Well screw you more.” (me) “Screw you the most.” (other) “Well screw you the mostest.” “Screw you the moistest-est-est-est-est,” (door slam or punch thrown). I was once told that as we get angrier we get stupider. This makes sense because we need blood flow in our brain to think properly, but when we’re angry our body sends blood to both our feet and hands in order to prepare for either a fight or an escape.
The worst part about the conflict I was in was we were fighting about cars. I couldn’t care less about cars. My sister-in-law couldn’t care less about cars. She used to drive a Pontiac Firebird. That’s how little she cares about cars: “Hi, I’d like to buy an ugly car that’s made with inferior construction… ooh a Firebird sounds exciting. Like a dragon with feathers… and a beak… who poops on cars… poops on cars with flaming poop.” The fight was itself a waste of time and energy. Unfortunately, there is more to this than just two people fighting over something they don’t really care about. Both of us had good intentions going into the disagreement, but along the way our intentions of: “Let me share my idea with you,” was interpreted as: “You’re stupid for thinking that.” Add in some previous incidents that led to neither of us really trusting the other anymore and you have the perfect recipe for a fight. All of this because she didn’t realize I was right… I mean had my own opinion. If either of us had taken a step back to realize that the other person’s intention wasn’t to say: “You’re stupid, and I’m right,” we wouldn’t have gotten to the point we needed a ref to intervene. This of course is especially sad for me when I’m a counselor and Reverend. I was certainly wrong for the way I acted. It’s hard though when you feel attacked, and you’re in the moment. When you’re in the moment the last thing you want to do is stop and think: “Is this person okay? Does he/she feel loved and respected in this moment?” In the moment all you care about is: “I’m right, and he/she better realize that.” Fortunately, being aware of the steps of a fight can help us know how to better recognize the trap into which we’re falling.
- Words or action are interpreted as an attack by Person1 (effected by the timing, insecurities and the history of the relationship)
- The response by Person1 to these “attacking” words or action are interpreted as an attack by Person2 (effected by the timing, insecurities and history of the relationship)
- Words start to get heated
- Words and gestures begin to have jabbing feel
- Volume increases (volume may change sooner)
- Stature raises to threaten whether arms crossed, stand taller, lean in, etc.
- Words get fewer until all that’s said is “Screw you!”
- Someone storms off or throws a punch thereby escalating the verbal fight into a physical one.
Last week we looked at how it’s important to look at the intention beneath the behaviour because the good news is we aren’t attacked nearly as much as we think. Knowing that the other person ultimately wants to feel loved, respected and understood just like us, we can hopefully stop ourselves in the steps of a fight before we get too far down the list. Ultimately, the further down we go, the harder it is to stop the fight and get back to being able to think properly. Anger is a gift from God, but we need to make sure we have it under control because it can lead to very hurtful and/or dangerous situations. Anger is a gift, but with all gifts we need to be responsible in how we use them… and hopefully you’ll use your anger better than I did.