By Steven G. Mehta

How people verbally fight and address conflict can have a direct consequence on their stress levels.  New research shows that the way you argue has a direct connection to the amount of stress you create from that argument.

A professor of biobehavioral health suggests the use of thoughtful words during relationship conflicts can mitigate health problems caused by stress. The latest research from Graham et al. (2009) shows that couples who are more considerate and rational during a fight release lower amounts of stress-related proteins. This suggests that rational communication between partners can ease the impact of marital conflict on the immune system.

Individuals in a stressful situation — as in a troubled relationship — typically have elevated levels of chemicals known as cytokines. These proteins are produced by cells in the immune system and help the body mount an immune response during infection. However, abnormally high levels of these proteins are linked to illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, arthritis and some cancers.

When people used words in a conflict-resolution discussion that suggested a thoughtful discussion — words like think, because, reason, why — the researchers found lower amounts of cytokines, the stress-related proteins. The researchers suggest it is because these kinds of words suggest that people are either making sense of the conflict, or at least thinking about it in a deeper, more meaningful manner.

This is important for mediation and other areas of conflict resolution because it helps people from increasing or escalating the tension or stress levels in a dispute.  It is helpful as a mediator to try to invoke such words and rationalization so as to also limit the amount of stress hormones.  By doing so, the entire argument or conflict can move towards the path of de-escalation to ultimate resolution.

Research Source:

Graham, J.E., Glaser, R., Loving, T.J., Malarkey, W.B., Stowell, J.R., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K. (2009). Cognitive word use during marital conflict and increases in proinflammatory cytokines. Health Psychology, 28(5), 621-630.

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