We’ve all been there. Someone says something that you disagree with and you can feel your shoulders tense. You might close your eyes and breathe deeply; letting your anger fade. You may feel a little better, but is that anger really gone?
Perhaps you should confront your adversary, or face the consequences. A study presented at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, showed avoiding arguments could be bad for your health. Just make sure you argue the right way.
In the study, over a period of eight days, participants were asked whether they had engaged in an argument or experienced tension leading up to one, but avoided it. They also gave saliva samples to measure cortisol levels during that time.
Cortisol is our “stress hormone.” It regulates many of the changes that occur in the body in response to stress. These include blood sugar (glucose) levels, immune responses, anti-inflammatory actions, and blood pressure, to name a few.
The results of the study showed 62% of the participants avoided arguments, while 41% engaged in conflict. The remainder said there was no tension. Tension in relationships can lead to feelings of sadness and anger, and physical symptoms, including nausea or aches and pains.
Those in the study who avoided arguments admitted to experiencing more of the negative physical symptoms the next day. Abstaining from arguments was also linked to an unusual daily cortisol pattern.
It’s why you create characters, so you can argue with yourself. – Michael Ondaatji, author of The English Patient
Cortisol normally peaks just after waking, and declines throughout the day. In the abstainers, there was a higher peak of the hormone in the morning and it was slower to decline during the day. Those that argued saw the reverse.
Without the argument, people tend to have a lack of closure; they may still feel anger and bottle it up. Many studies show bottled anger adds to stress, which tends to shorten lives.
An important aspect to any healthy relationship is a good argument. Arguing with somebody you care about is a unique opportunity to learn more about them, and understand how they feel. It’s a way of opening up to new ideas and getting to know the people in our lives a little bit better. Just don’t confuse arguing with fighting.
- Raising voices
- Bringing up the past
- Calm voices
- Mutual respect
- Focused on one issue
Just as the fortune states, the objective is not to win, but to solve the problem and move forward in your relationship. This applies to couples, siblings, friends, classmates, and coworkers. Most probably realize this, unless you are a member of the United States Congress.
It is okay to disagree. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll find other human being that agrees with you on every single subject. Arguing is a part of living in a social society. In fact, you might even disagree with yourself at times. Arguing with yourself is a win-win scenario. It’s a normal problem solving technique. Michael Ondaatji, author of The English Patient, said writers created characters so they could argue with themselves.
Arguing can be very productive. It is a good way to communicate opposing ideas, share information and honestly express feelings. There’s no need to go toe to toe, screaming at each other. You don’t need a designated safe space. Even if there is anger and disagreement, productive arguing starts with openness, care and understanding. Aim at finding a solution, rather than pointing blame. If you feel your blood beginning to boil, excuse yourself for a moment until you cool down. Then, you can resume.
You will probably never hear kids chanting “Argue! Argue! Argue!” in a schoolyard, but if we practice effective arguing, we may live to see another day and never have to fight.