Interrupting Escalation

Once the swirl of an argument starts, it can be difficult to find your way back to connection. You might feel angry and scared and want to protect needs for understanding, respect, and consideration. Habit energy can be like a runaway semi truck going downhill. The brakes burn out and you find yourself escalating into defending, attacking, or blaming.

It's helpful to have two or three things you can do immediately.  As corny as it may seem, it's worth writing those two or three things down and keeping a laminated copy on your coffee table and in your purse or wallet.

Below is a list of possible "go to" options when you notice an argument is escalating.  Choose two or three that you think would be most helpful for you.  Write them down on a card and keep that card with you or in the place you most often have arguments.

Ask Questions to Get to Needs:

  • "What's most important to you (to me) right now?"

  • "There is something here we really care about. What is it?"

  • "What am I (are you) afraid of losing?"

  • "What are really wanting me to understand?"

  • "What am I (are you) needing?"

Create Space

  • "Give me a minute to process what you said"

  • "Hang on, let me go to the bathroom and come back."

  • "You said (repeat what the other just said)"

  • "I'd like to take a 20 minute time-out and come back."

Name Your Feeling

  • "I feel disconnected"

  • "I'm reacting."

  • "I'm nervous right now"

  • "I feel defensive."

  • "My heart is racing."

  • "I'm going fuzzy."

Name What's Happening

  • "I notice I just blamed you."

  • "I'm defending myself."

  • "I'm thinking you are judging me."

  • "I'm repeating myself."

  • "My voice is getting louder."

  • "I'm talking more quickly."

  • "I'm moving away from you."

  • "I'm shutting down."

Use Pattern Interrupts

  • "How about a glass of water?"

  • Sing the blame song

  • Howl like a Jackal

  • Say something you are grateful for

  • Take the conversation to another room or go outside

  • Plan a sign or key word with the other person to signal you are in disconnect

Change Your Physiology

  • Take 3 slow deep breaths before saying anything else

  • Stretch your body to release tension and increase circulation

  • Go for a walk, run, etc.

  • Eat or drink something nourishing

  • Lay flat on the floor or ground and ask your body to sink into the support of the ground