How to Diffuse an Argument: Part 2

Last month in Part 1 of this blog post we looked at how attachment styles drive interactions, triggers, and responses to those triggers. We learned that incorporating the EFT Tango builds empathy for your partner and their perspective as well as for yourself and your needs. This month we will look at practical applications, with examples, to guide you through trying the EFT Tango on your own.


Here’s how the EFT Tango can look at home: 


1: Identify the trigger and pattern  

If you are feeling triggered, it’s best if you can catch the process happening as early as possible. You’ll recognize this by paying attention to signals in your body, thoughts about you or your partner, changes in your tone of voice, and relational patterns of turning up the noise or wanting to get away. While you might notice these in your partner, it’s key that you pay closer attention to those happening within yourself – since that’s within your responsibility and control. When you notice it, name it. State it as an observation. Pro-tip: Call yourself out, not your partner. 


Example: “When you challenge my parenting in front of the kids my body gets really tense. I tell myself you don’t respect me and I’m all alone. I tend to get more adamant about my position and get louder so you’ll hear me.”


2. Explore deeper feelings

These can be hard to identify until you’ve refined your ability to get in touch with yourself. Most of us are aware of our secondary emotions (those apparent on the surface) such as frustration, anger, and resentment. Primary emotions are deeper and more vulnerable. They are the initial responses we have to external stimuli. Secondary are the reactions we have to those initial reactions. They are often fueled by perceptions and meaning we are making of the stimulus and our primary response to it. Let this be a compassionate inquiry into your inner world.


Example: What does the reaction look like on the surface? Anger, frustration? Get curious about why it causes a big reaction within you, as opposed to it being a slight annoyance. Do you feel confident in your parenting? Do you think your partner might be right? Do you worry about what your children will think of you? Do you feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of parenting? Do you have concerns about your partner’s parenting? What deeper emotions are connected to your response to these questions? Fear, isolation, overwhelm?



3. Share deeper feelings

If we aren’t mindful, we might find ourselves sharing things such as “you really don’t care” or “I just can’t get it right with you.” These aren’t feelings, they are a perception and a fear, respectively. Deeper feelings are, “I’m feeling unsure of myself” or “I’m feeling worried I’ll lose you.” 


Example: “I know I look angry, but in reality, I feel really alone and overwhelmed when we are not on the same page.” 


4. Listening partner responds.

Now, this can get tricky. Because oftentimes when our partner is triggered by us we want to defend ourselves. We don’t want to be seen as unloving or neglectful. That can be scary. However, if as the listener if you don’t take the time to make sure you understand, hear, and validate your partner’s experience, your partner will be left alone in their vulnerability. Be mindful also that your partner may not be an expert yet at steps 1-3 and might have slipped into blame, criticism, and perceptions of you. Try to understand the primary emotions. If they aren’t clear on them yet and things are heating up, let them know you care and ask to revisit this again later. If feelings are heating up within you, name it and ask for the chance to address them at a later time. But allow your partner to complete their tango. 


Example: “Oh okay, so you are feeling alone and overwhelmed. Can you tell me more about that? Is there anything else you’d like me to understand about that?”


5. Reflect and connect

This is the time to offer gratitude to your partner for their willingness to walk through this process with you. Offer reassurance and let them know how much they matter to you.


Example: Sharing partner: “I appreciate you taking the time to hear me out. Next time maybe you can let me know of your concerns in privacy. Can I have a hug?” Listening partner: “It’s helpful to understand what’s happening on a deeper level. The message isn’t always clear. Could I let you know what I go through when you get upset?” 



After one partner completes steps 1-5 it can be repeated with the listener shifting to the speaker. Keep in mind, it might be best to wait until a later time. Depending on how intense the emotions are for the sharing partner it can take some time for the sense of feeling heard to sink in. Before you begin to share, make sure your partner is ready. I recommend you wait at least 30 minutes, but you might even wait until the next day. Ideally, there is some balance between who begins in different scenarios and it can be challenging to decide who goes first.  This is just something you can learn to navigate over time.  


It takes practice!

Strong relationships don’t come without struggle. While this process might prove challenging, with practice and doing your own internal work you will get better at it. As you learn, put all your energy into learning your side of the tango. Let your partner be responsible for theirs. If it proves too challenging, get some help. Our therapists can help you in person in Arlington, VA or virtually throughout the states of Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia, Georgia, Colorado, and Hawaii. You can also find EFT therapists throughout the world here. 


To learn more about what’s available with Heartswell, schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation

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