There’s a lot of talk lately about trigger warnings and whether they’re helpful or harmful, but some of the most significant triggers tend to come with no warning at all.
- Discussing hot topics can lead to strong words
- Staying calm in debates is key
- Keep your cool and speak your words, not your emotions
With the holidays coming up, it can be a time of difficult conversations with friends and family members. Some have returned to school and offices, so there can be conversations there that cause friction as well. And of course, it’s an election year in the United States, so that can cause stressful interactions, too. It’s not always possible to avoid triggers, but you can decide on what your response will be. Sometimes it’s a great idea to decide that before you get into it with anyone.
Ways To Keep Cool
Whether you’re talking to friends or family, decide what your ground rules are. If you’re willing to forego talking about politics, money, and religion entirely, you can excuse yourself from any conversation that comes up about it.
But what if you’re forced into a conversation? Here’s the thing. No one forces you to say something. If something so egregious is said and you aren’t able to hold your tongue, you can still control the words you say and how they come out.
Controlling yourself is not always easy, but it is always easier than controlling someone else. Pace yourself, and take a breath or two before you respond. Keep your values in mind when you do answer someone’s questions, so that you’re keeping curiosity and compassion in the conversation.
Try to avoid topics that upset you – and if possible enlist the help of the host to avoid things that will cause unnecessary angst and upheaval. Think about bringing a list of topics with you, even in your mind, that you can toss out if you need to. Get to know the favorite football team of your Uncle Mario and talk about that with him. Find out about hobbies Aunt Joanie has, and show real curiosity and interest in both them and her.
Decide what your core values are. Are you sure about them? Then live them. Keep your cool when you’re talking to others, and deescalate wherever possible so that tension doesn’t rise. Even if others are not playing nice, or playing fair, decide if it’s really important to you to answer that. Can you let it go? Could you be misunderstanding?
If you are engaging with others about topics that can cause friction, make sure you’re fully listening to engage with the other person, and not just listening to respond. It’s entirely possible that there is less distance between your two positions than you think. And if there isn’t, at least you’re listening to fully understand another person’s point of view. Can you reach across the divide? That’s entirely up to you.
Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid a topic, or a relative, which just seems designed to start an argument. Sometimes it’s morality that’s being called into question, and not just opinions about something innocuous like color schemes or pizza toppings. If you find you’re at a meal, or a school event, or somewhere else where you are definitely going to be called out on a topic, you can still control yourself.
Take a deep breath, or several deep breaths. Count to five, or ten, or twenty. Give yourself some grace, and allow yourself a moment to be at peace before you speak. Remember that you are part of the same team, whether that is a family, friendship, or the human race. All of us are only doing the best we can with what we have. It can be easy to judge and condemn others for disagreeing, but sometimes it can be important to see why someone views things in another way.
Avoid narcissists whenever possible, hang out with good people, know that your chosen family is just as valuable as any other. And keeping an open mind and growth mindset can go a long way to making things go more smoothly, especially when the other person is also looking for ways to be positive.