Which words do you use in communicating with your spouse that make the discussion worse, and which words cause you both to calm down? Researchers have the answers.
Some words increase your stress level, and can even heighten your risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems. Other words and phrases can actually reduce your stress and calm your body down, allowing your brain to think more rationally instead of in anger.
One study revealed that couples who used the words “think,” “reason,” “because,” “understand,” “why” and other analytical words during an argument lowered the body’s stress. When using these words, they experienced lower levels of proteins that help aid the body’s immune system. Research led by Jennifer Graham, PhD, from Penn State University was published in Health Psychology.
Men experienced a greater benefit than women, but women tended to use more of these analytical words and phrases. (Isn’t that interesting, when women are thought to be the more emotive gender?)
The reason these words can help reduce stress and diffuse anger, is they cause us to think rather than relying on our anger or first response, often the fight-or-flight response.
Experts suggest two other phrases to use during a discussion/argument. The first is “I wonder…” which allows you both to consider the issue or problem rather than placing blame. The second is simply “Hmmm…” which allows you both to be uncritical in that moment. It can often shift the energy to a more positive one, helping you consider possibilities and solutions.
Trigger words to AVOID include: “You always…” or “Your never…” and “There you go again.”
In addition to words, consider your non-verbal communication. Are your arms crossed, are you glaring? Do you use sarcasm or express contempt, or roll your eyes? Do you have aggressive gestures, such as arm waving or raised voice? Or are you calm, sitting next to, maybe touching gently?
When you feel the disagreement escalating, breathe deeply and slowly from your belly. Quicker breaths from the chest are more common when we are upset, and this helps calm you down. And practice better communication. These are skills that can be learned.
Each day, practice gratitude and try to avoid complaining. “Thanks” is always a welcome word to express your spouse.
Are there words you have learned to avoid with your spouse? Or words that help you calm down?
Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.
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