Lauren Thomas Hale

Reducing Family Arguments, Conflict, and Debate: 5 Tips to Keep Friction to a Minimum

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By Lauren Thomas Hale, MA

A family is a complicated thing.  Gathered around a holiday meal or celebrating a mutual milestone, your family may experience a host of highs and lows as you navigate a myriad of emotions and perspectives about each other’s respective lives.

Family members are usually the people who love us, support us, and encourage us. However, they can also be the people with whom we fight the most.

Why are family arguments often more stressful than other arguments? To start with, it can feel terrible to fight with the people who know us the best. Moreover, your conflicts may be rooted in long-standing, unresolved issues that can bubble to the surface during family gatherings and sudden close, daily interaction.

Even if you aren’t actually discussing those old issues, they can play a role in how you feel about each other. Most of us don’t want to feel resentful or angry with those closest to us. Therefore, it is beneficial to learn how to keep friction to a minimum. Here are five helpful tips for the holidays and beyond:

1. Simply Don’t Engage

It takes two people to argue. If you refuse to participate in the argument, it can’t go anywhere. By not responding or reacting, you diffuse the situation.

Of course, this is much easier said than done. Your family members know exactly how to get under your skin. If they are used to arguing with you in a certain way, then they will be uncomfortable when you don’t engage. Therefore, they may try even harder to pull you into the argument.

If at all possible, disengage. Options include:

  • Taking slow, deep breaths until you can respond calmly

  • Counting backward from ten (or one hundred!)

  • Doing a body scan to notice tension and release it

  • Telling your family member that you need time to think about what they’ve said

  • Respectfully stating that you don’t want to have a disagreement, and calmly walking away

2. Ask Questions

Arguments happen because both people believe they are right. You are each locked into your own positions. Moreover, you are trying to change the other person’s mind. Instead, try becoming curious about the other person’s position. You don’t have to agree with them, but you can work to understand them without trying to change their opinion. As you soften your position by getting to know theirs, they may do the same for you.

3. Use “I” Statements

Speak from a place of your own truth. State what you think, feel, and believe. However, make it clear that you know that this is just your experience. Express an interest in sharing your experience without blaming, shaming, or arguing. Use the following framework:

  • I feel (blank)

  • When (blank happens)

  • This makes me want to (blank)

  • I’d like to do (blank) instead

For example, “I feel anxious when people start raising their voices. This makes me want to run away. I’d like to be able to have a quiet conversation instead.” This is more effective than, “You are so mean, and if you yell at me again, I’m leaving.”

4. Use “Yes, and” Statements

Another effective way to reduce family arguments is to agree with everyone. Acknowledge that they have a valid point of view. Use, “yes, and” statements to convey that you are on their side. At the same time, these statements allow you to speak your truth.

For example, let’s say that your brother-in-law calls you selfish. You can argue until your blue in the face about how unselfish you are. However, he will probably not agree. Instead, try saying, “yes, sometimes I can be a little bit selfish, and I do that because I am scared that if I don’t stand up for myself, then no one else will.”

5. Open Up Communication Slowly and Steadily

The midst of an argument is not the time to resolve big family issues. It takes time and hard work to solve family arguments. Therefore, start slowly. Begin by just opening up to your family members in small ways. Share more of yourself. Over time, it will become easier for everyone to calmly share their truths.

There are many underlying issues that lead to family arguments. Therapy can help you identify the issues, work toward resolution and understanding, and learn how to make family gatherings the joy you know they can be.

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Lauren Thomas Hale, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. Lauren’s use of mindfulness practices in her therapeutic approach helps her clients enter a state of mind which is calm, receptive, and balanced. To schedule your appointment with Lauren, you can reach her at (512) 270-4883, ext. 114, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

Burned Out? Stressed Out? On the Edge of a Blowout? How to Stay Calm at Work

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By Lauren Thomas Hale, MA

Whether you love your job or wish you clocked in elsewhere, burnout happens. “Content” and “calm” are not words that most of us would readily identify with when we are on the clock.

Between busy schedules and demanding projects, it’s easy to feel weighed down by the stresses of the workplace. Unfortunately, many of us don’t handle the pressure well.

Fatigue, exhaustion, extra stress, and even depression are not uncommon among the working population. Furthermore, we often won’t take time to recover. Bottling up stress can lead to reactionary irritation and angry blowouts.

If this pattern continues for too long, you may find that your productivity, work relationships, and career advancement decline quite negatively.

After all, you can’t hold in your feelings forever.

Let’s look at how you can avoid angry blowouts by controlling frustration and promoting relaxation.

Think About Why You’re Angry

Maybe someone’s personality is rubbing you the wrong way. Maybe you didn’t get the promotion you wanted. Whatever the case, before you blow up at someone, really think about why you’re angry.

When you take the time to process your anger, you’ll have a better chance of controlling it. More often than not, getting angry isn’t the right solution for your problem. It’s okay to feel frustrated or disappointed, but there are other outlets to manage those feelings.

Control Your Response to Support Calm at Work

Try choosing a positive way to control your response, especially your physical response.

A quick remedy is to immediately start doing something, try taking a walk, counting to ten, or even taking a deep breath. Though simple, these acts will often give you the small bit of space and clarity needed to control your reaction.

However, controlling your responses long-term is easier when you are healthy and taking care of yourself. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating well. Do whatever you need to do to get back to a healthier state, physically and mentally.

Let Go of Situations That Are Out of Your Control

There are some situations in the workplace you can control, and some you can’t.

It’s important to recognize that forfeiting feeling calm at work and getting angry over things you can’t control will never leave you feeling satisfied or better about the situation. Really, it’s a waste of your valuable energy.

Take a look at the situation that is making you angry. If you can’t do anything to resolve it, the best thing you can do is let it go.

If something is in your control and you can resolve it, it’s still best to avoid doing that with anger. Try to look at it from a constructive standpoint, and figure out what you can do to solve the problem.

Talk to Your Employer

Sharing your feelings with your employer can make a big difference.

Talking to your boss or human resources department can foster understanding about your out-of-character behavior. You may both determine that you need some time off or fewer responsibilities.

Many times, employers are willing to work with employees to ensure they’re happy, healthy, and calm at work. Don’t be afraid to approach your boss or supervisor about your fatigue. Chances are, you’ll both come up with tactics that provide you with a measure of contentment and relaxation.

Restoring calm and avoiding anger blowouts at work is, admittedly, easier said than done. Especially if you’re already feeling you’ve reached the end of your line. However, if you take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, you’ll be less likely to experience those pent-up feelings of anger in an ongoing way.

The tools provided by a therapist can help you find calm at work and support well-being wherever you are. Let’s meet for a consultation to help you begin seeking your peace now rather than later.

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Lauren Thomas Hale, MA, LPC Intern, works with adults at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin to help cultivate positive, personal growth and access the inner wisdom that resides in each of us. Lauren’s calm approach to counseling is influenced by her mindfulness practices and her ability to help clients integrate mind and body as they explore their past emotional experiences. To schedule an appointment with Lauren, you can reach her at (512) 270-4883, ext, 114, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling Page.

Enjoy Every Moment of Life! 3 Keys to Finding Your Path to Personal Growth

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By Lauren Thomas Hale, MA

There are so many articles around about personal growth and living for the moment. Life would be so much easier if we could just follow their advice and—presto!—suddenly be on the right path. Unfortunately, reality just doesn’t work that way.

So how do you find clarity?

Consider all of the things you do in your life. Are they geared towards your enjoyment, fulfillment, or personal growth?

Take a step back and really reflect on this question. Then, try using these three keys to finding your path to personal growth.

1. Locate Where You Are Now

First, take a moment to reflect on where you are now, at this moment.

If you took a snapshot of your life and sent it to your younger self, what would they say?

We all make choices in our lives and those choices affect the paths that we take. Have your choices allowed you to be on the path you want? Or, have things taken a different turn?

Remember that if you are not where you thought you would be, that isn’t bad. In fact, life has a way of revealing new paths to personal growth that you didn’t expect when you first started on this journey.

However, what if you are still unsure of what your path should be?

2. Identify Your Passions

Next, identify what you are passionate about. What is it that really excites you in life?

When pursuing your passion, does time seem to slow down? Do you feel more present and centered in your life?

Remember that your passions can change over time too. When you were much younger maybe you were passionate about watching Saturday-morning cartoons. Now, though, you prefer playing the guitar and building things in your workshop. That’s okay!

Understand what your passions are right now, in this moment, and work from there.

3. Pursue Those Passions

Once you know what your passions are, find ways to pursue them.

It could be that you take a course or class to improve upon a skill. Or, schedule a weekend or even a vacation to go more in-depth with your beloved hobby. This could be anything from scuba diving to line dancing to cheese tasting!

If your passion is your work, consider how to do it better. Perhaps the next step is that you open your own business or expand and grow your existing business. When you think about all the options that are available, the sky really is the limit!

Find Balance with Your Passions

It’s entirely possible that you have passions that are both related to work and recreation. That’s great because it allows you to enjoy more moments in life.

Think about it, you can love what you do for work and still be passionate about your family too.

Finding a balance between work and home allows you to get more enjoyment out of your time and feel more passionate about life as well.

A Word of Advice - Never Settle

We’ll leave you with this word of advice: never to get too complacent with your passions. Remember, there is always room to pursue growth or try something new.

For example, an athlete will love their sport but will also constantly push to achieve a higher level of performance.

Personal growth occurs in much the same way. You can’t grow unless you are challenged. That can mean refining your skills in your current passions or trying something completely new.

When it comes to your personal growth and finding enjoyment in life, the most important factor is identifying and pursuing that which you love to do. Finding your passion will make life enjoyable; maintaining that passion means to constantly be pushing yourself toward new challenges.

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Lauren Thomas Hale, MA, is a licensed professional counselor intern at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. For help identifying your passions and finding your own path to personal growth, request an appointment with Lauren by calling (512) 270-4883, ext.114, or online at the RCC Austin Scheduling page.