Fighting and arguing will kill you, literally

By | September 22, 2015 | Health & Wellness

Fighting and arguing will kill you, literally | The Momiverse | Article by Douglas E. Noll

If you live a life of arguments, fighting, and conflicts in your family and at work, you are killing yourself.

According to the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, Danish researchers have found that people who fight and argue suffer ten times more cancer and are two to three times more likely to die than those who do not.  The researchers found that stress related to excess demands, conflicts, and arguing were linked to a 50 percent to 100 percent increased risk of death from any cause. Among all these stresses, arguing was the most harmful.

Frequent arguments with partners, relatives, friends, or neighbors were associated with doubling to tripling the risk of death from any cause, compared with those who said these incidents were rare.

The question remains, what to do about it? How might you stop an argument in its tracks? Only one skill truly works at reducing or stopping arguments.

The secret skill: Know how to listen, but not in the way you normally listen.

Here’s how:

1.   Ignore the words.

When you ignore the words, you can listen to everything else. When you listen to the words someone is saying, your ego becomes involved. You will react to any nasty comments the other person says to you, and the argument will inevitably escalate.

2.   Be silent.

This will keep you from becoming reactive, and it gives you a space to pay attention for the next step.

3.   Observe and identify the emotions flowing through the other person.

Emotions flow like waves. People may experience a group of emotions at once or one at a time. Identify those emotions that seem obvious to you. There are usually five layers of emotions:

  • Anger, frustration
  • Disrespect, injustice, betrayal, not being heard
  • Fear, anxiety
  • Sadness, grief
  • Abandonment, loneliness

4.   Simply and directly reflect the emotions you are observing.

“You are angry and frustrated. You don’t feel heard. You feel betrayed.”

5.   Watch for the head nod.

Keep at it until you see a head nod from the other person. When that happens, stop.

A couple of warnings. First, do not ask what someone is feeling. For example, do not say, “Are you angry?” Second, do not use “I” statements. You might have learned to say something like, “What I hear you saying is that you’re very angry.” Science shows this is not only ineffective, it actually makes the other person more frustrated.

When you listen for emotions, amazing things happen. First, your ego disappears, and you won’t be triggered by any comments. Second, you can de-escalate an angry adult or child in 90 seconds or less. Third, you can provide a priceless gift of listening to another person.

The challenge is that the skill is counter-intuitive. You might feel that reflecting someone’s emotions is rude. You might be reticent because you might be wrong. As you experiment with this type of listening, you will find that these fears are unfounded. Have courage and be patient.
This type of listening is powerful.

Learning how to listen can lengthen your life, reduce your stress, improve your relationships, and transform the lives of the ones you love. Like any serious skill, it takes knowledge and practice, but can be mastered in a few hours of instruction. Give yourself a precious gift in life: Learn how to listen.

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Douglas E. Noll

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{ 1 comment }

NotNowMomsBusy September 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Hi Douglas,

I was aware we suffered from anxiety and stress when there’s continuous arguing but I didn’t realize it could cause cancer.

Thank you for the advice you shared here. This might sound strange but my husband and I are better at arguing now than when we were younger. Back then there was a lot of yelling and finger pointing involved. Now, we give each other space, talk not yell and validate each other’s feelings. Thankfully, arguing doesn’t happen all the time :).

Passing this on to share with others. Hope you both are having an amazing week!


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