Whether you’re arguing with your husband about your mother-in-law’s politics, with your roommate about how to split utilities or with your six-year-old about why he can’t have two desserts instead of dinner, the goal should always be de-escalation (world leaders: take note). But how do you help everyone simmer down when you can physically feel your body and brain descending into a rage spiral? One family therapist has a great trick that we intend to try the next time we feel fiery: Speak in statements, not questions.
“Questions easily trigger childhood stuff,” therapist Robert Taibbi writes in Psychology Today. “Mental and emotional memories of a parent looming over us and wagging a finger: Why are you late? Did you do your homework? Did you hit your brother? They quickly evoke criticism and tension—that something is wrong, that you did something wrong, that you are not being honest. These reactions are hardwired into our brains.” And of course there’s the nuclear missile of all questions: “Why do you always…?”
Statements, on the other hand, “soothe, calm and join,” Taibbi writes. While they will still enable you to get your (valid, obviously) point across, statements like “I know you feel upset, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, I said that because I was worried that…” will help to “lower the emotional temperature.” The most soothing statement of all, of course? I hear you.