Quiz: Do You Know How to Walk Away From An Argument?

Time-outs aren't just for kids with temper tantrums. Sometimes adults in a tense situation need to step back and take stock, especially if emotions are running high. One strategy is to take a time-out: a temporary break from a tense situation that will buy you the time to calm down. The key to taking action is recognizing the warning signs -- physical and emotional -- that could signal that an explosion of anger is just around the corner. Do you know how to recognize them?

1. All but one of the following physical symptoms could mean you're on the verge of blowing up. Which is it?

a. You suddenly break out into a sweat.

b. Your stomach is tied into knots.

c. You're holding your breath.

d. The other person sounds so distraught that you feel a surge of affection for him.

2. During an argument, all but one of the following thoughts may signal that you need to take a time-out.

a. "I feel like smacking his stupid smirking face!

b. "This is so unfair. I hate her!"

c. "I'm at the end of my rope -- I can't take it anymore."

d. "He does have a point there."

3. Which of the following is the best way to advise someone that you are going to take a time-out?

a. "You're making me so angry that I can't listen to another word."

b. "I feel too upset to talk, and I want to take a timeout. Let's meet back here in a hour when we're both feeling calmer."

c. "Time-out! You're crazy, and I'm getting the %#$* out of here."

d. Say nothing and walk out.

4. Which of the following is a good reason to take a time-out?

a. To punish or hurt the person you're arguing with

b. To avoid talking about problems

c. To get a stiff drink

d. All of the above

e. None of the above

5. Which of the following would NOT be a good time-out activity?

a. Taking a long walk

b. Playing with a pet

c. Thinking of clever put-downs with a friend

d. Going to the gym

Answers

1. All but one of the following physical symptoms could mean you're on the verge of blowing up. Which is it?

The correct answer is: d. You feel a surge of affection for the other person.

Feeling affectionate toward the other person is a good sign. Breaking into a sweat, holding your breath, and feeling knots in your stomach are classic signs of oncoming rage. If you feel these signs coming on and are unable to calm yourself down, it's best to take a time-out and come back to the discussion later.

2. During an argument, all but one the following thoughts may signal that you need to take a time-out.

The correct answer is: d. "He does have a point there."

If you're thinking "I can't take it anymore" or "I want like smacking someone," these are clear indications that your anger is getting out of hand, and you need to cool off. Thoughts like "I hate her," or "Everyone is out to get me," are so-called "trigger thoughts" which only serve to fuel your anger. On the other hand, if you find yourself agreeing with someone else's perspective, it shows you are attempting to put yourself in the other person's place. Practice listening to your inner voice, and if you find you can't replace anger-inducing comments with more constructive thoughts, it's best to opt for the time-out.

3. Which of the following is the best way to advise someone that you are going to take a time-out?

The correct answer is: b. "I feel too angry and upset to talk, and I want to take a timeout. Let's meet back here in a hour when we're both feeling calmer."

Many people report that breaking away from an argument is the hardest step. Sometimes the other person doesn't want you to leave, or sometimes your parting comments only spark more argument. If you blame the other person by saying "I have to go-- you're making me angry," he is likely to get defensive and keep arguing. The best option is to use an "I" statement that explains your state of mind ("I feel too upset to talk right now") and makes it clear why you need to take a break. Saying nothing and walking away is not a good option because it is likely the other person will feel they're being punished; in addition, it doesn't let them know that you will be returning later. It may help to talk when things are calm and agree that either person can take a time-out during an argument if necessary.

4. Which of the following is a good reason to take a time-out?

The correct answer is: e. None of the above

Time-outs are designed to avoid unhealthy blow-ups. Abusing time-outs by using them to hurt your partner, to put off talking indefinitely, or as an excuse to get drunk will likely further erode confidence in your relationship.

5. Which of the following would NOT be a good time-out activity?

The correct answer is: c. Thinking of clever put-downs with a friend

During a time-out it's best to avoid friends who tend to fuel your anger or encourage your "I'm the victim" thoughts. While it's understandable that you might want to seek solace in the company of a friend, the best way to spend time-outs is to do something active like walking or working out, as this will help relieve tension in your body. Playing with a pet is another good option.

References

McKay, Matthew, PhD, and Rogers, Peter, PhD. The Anger Control Workbook. New Harbinger Publications Inc.

Ciaramicoli, Arthur P. EdD, PhD, and Ketcham, Katherine. The Power of Empathy. Penguin Putnam. 1997

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