Most people don’t stop to consider the silent, underlying part of an argument – the body. If you stop and analyze a recent argument, you can probably track some pretty clear signs of physiological activation in the body during a moment of conflict. 

Pause for a moment, and try to put yourself in your shoes during your last conflict. What do you notice about your body? Was your heart racing quickly? Were your shoulders coming up to your ears? Was your jaw clenched? Were your fists balled up ready for a fight? 

The more you can track what your body is telling you, the more you can prevent escalated arguments. The best way to do this is to practice mindfulness of your body. In other words, pay attention to the sensations in your body. 

Your body will talk to you and give you great data, if you just listen. 

One way to practice mindfulness in the body is through body scans. Close your eyes, and bring your attention to your body, starting at the toes and working your way up, through the whole body, to the head. Or starting at the head and down to the toes. Stop at each body part, and ask yourself, 

“What do I feel? Do I feel tingling? Pulsating? Vibrating? Contracting? Expanding? Heat? Cold?” 

Next, become aware of where your feelings land in your body. If you’re feeling stressed, for example, does the feeling land like a weight on your shoulders? Or maybe a tightness in your chest? The more you arm yourself with knowledge about the language of the body, the more you are prepared for any interaction.

Once you are confident with identifying the sensations in your body,  apply this awareness in relationships. In any conversation, put your first attention on yourself, noticing your body signs. This way you will be able to catch yourself if you become activated. You can ask for a pause from the conversation if needed – even a short pause can help settle the nervous system.

One of the reasons you want to be aware of what is happening in your body is that often in arguments, you enter survival mode  – fight, flight, or freeze. Your prefrontal cortex, or “thinking brain” comes offline, and you think and act from your mamillion brain and may say or do something you regret. 

The more you soothe your nervous system, even amidst a fight, the more you are likely to stay grounded, and connected to your body, with your rational mind. Soothing the nervous system is literally as simple as noticing and acknowledging what is happening. 

So the next time an argument inevitably creeps up, be sure to consider the silent, underlying part of an argument – the body. The body doesn’t lie and when you listen, the body will give you data to make informed choices and treat others with respect and love.