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  • Writer's picturerodney baker

Hack your arguments (with Science!)

Do you feel like your argument quickly detour from the topic at hand to a defensive free for all?

It may be your body.

If you find yourself getting worked up during a argument over "something stupid," you are not alone. Most couples report that their arguments start out over something innocuous, like dishes or the garbage, and end up in a full on fight. This can be frustrating and make you question why you and your partner cant have a calm discussion about these things. While there may be some underlying issues that need to be addressed in therapy, there is a scientific reason that you are struggling with this escalation.

The resting heart rate for an average adult is between 60-80BPM. This is what is referred to as the intrinsic rate at this point your sympathetic nervous system is at ease. Your amygdala, the fight or flight center of your brain, is deactivated. When the heart rate reaches 99bpm it starts to move out of its intrinsic rate. Your body starts to release endorphins, engage the amygdala and enter fight or flight.

This fight or flight,often associated with anxiety, is the feeling that your heart is beating out of your chest, you begin to sweat, your hearing is muffled, your pupils dilate, and your stomach stops digesting food. These physical reactions have their place in either preparing you to fight or flight in order to feel safe.

So the question is how can you be a present and caring listener to your partner and want to fight or flight from them? The answer, of course, is you can't.

In these moments, you and your partner need a break to allow your heart rate to lower and get out of this fight or flight mode. Take moment to talk with your partner about this idea ahead of time, so that it doesn't appear you are just walking away from an argument. Then come up with a plan, "we'll return after 20 min and recap each others points." Having this discussion ahead of time helps remove the reactivity of the argument.


1.Set an alarm on your smart watch that beeps at 100bpm


1. Notice the signs of fight or flight

2. Stop the discussion

3. Remove yourself from each others sight

4. Practice self care until your heart rate is back in its intrinsic zone (usually 20min.)

-Take a shower

-Listen to music

-Tool around the garage

-Play a quick, mindless game on your phone

5. Return to the discussion ready to listen

In being aware of these physiological reactions to these arguments, you can remove a large barrier to resolving the actual issue at hand.

Rodney is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional with 10+ years experience working with couples of all shapes and sizes. Contact Rodney at 603-892-9777 or at to learn more and schedule your free 15min consultation.

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