Why Joking During Fights Relieves The Tension

May 13, 2019  |  
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humor in conflict resolution

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My partner and I use humor to diffuse situations a lot. For example, yesterday, he came home after a long day, probably hoping to find a somewhat tidy apartment, to find that I’d just cooked myself a three-course lunch (I was feeling fancy?), from which I had not yet cleaned up. Instead of saying something nasty to me, secluding himself to a room, and becoming grumpy (which he has done surrounding my messes before), he just said, “Are we having a yard sale I didn’t know about?” which made me laugh, which made him laugh, and then he said, “Boo—can you do something about this when you’re done eating?” That was such a better way to handle it than exploding at me. We were over the incident within three minutes, and went onto have a nice night. Here are some reasons joking about fights can relieve the tension.

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Laughing lowers blood pressure

Laughing cannot only lower blood pressure but it can also slow down your stress response. Translation: you don’t overreact as much to the little tiff you and your partner are having about your visiting in-laws.

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It’s a form of role-play

If you ever go into couples counseling or pre-marital therapy, there are certain exercises you can expect to do and one of them is role-play. In this, your partner essentially acts as you, doing or saying the things that trigger him. It’s a good way for you to see the way your partner sees you when you’re upsetting him. In a lighter, more comical way, you can do this at home when your partner is being unreasonable. Just mimicking him—lovingly and not tauntingly—can quickly show him how ridiculous he’s being.

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You see how small the issue really is

Sometimes, a little sarcasm combined with some analogies can show how silly the thing really is. It’s like my partner asking if we were having a yard sale when he saw all the dishes and mixing bowls I had out. It was a quick way to show me how he saw the mess I’d made, but it also minimized the fight.

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And really—it’s probably not a big deal

So many of the things we argue about with our partners really aren’t a big deal. When you’re old and bedridden, you’ll regret every dumb fight you had about laundry or parking spots. You’ll wish you’d just focused on enjoying each other more. Joking during a fight gets you back to doing that.

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It puts you on the same team again

When you’re laughing together, you feel like teammates again. You go from feeling like adversaries to feeling like you’re in this together. It’s the reason people use humor in political debates and business negotiations. It brings people back together.

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It’s a tool for the next fight

Whatever you’re arguing about, it will probably come up again. So, now, you have a way to diffuse the tension quicker next time. You can make the same joke or type of joke again, and you’ll both instantly remember how silly this fight is.

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It takes you out of the moment

Laughing has a way of making you sort of adjust your lens, zoom out, and look at the moment in a bigger picture sense. It has a way of removing you from the actual fight for a moment, pausing, and reassessing. Without a pause, anger can be a fast-moving train so it’s good to have some device that slows you down.

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It makes it less taboo

My boyfriend and I will joke about our fights, after the fights, in front of others. It’s sort of our way of telling them a funny story. This further removes the taboo from the fight. It takes the power away from the argument—it isn’t some dark, scary, untouchable thing.

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Teasing is more affectionate than yelling

Teasing is naturally more loving than yelling or even speaking firmly to someone. When you make a joke, you’re delivering your message or critique through a more affectionate medium.

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It creates a mirror

Joking about something creates a mirror for us to see our behavior clearly. When you tease what your partner is doing—whether he’s the one messing up, or he’s overreacting to your mess-up—it provides a little reflection.

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It’s hard to stay mad if you’re laughing

Can you really feel anger when you’re laughing? Nah. That emotion can’t really coexist with humor. You can essentially laugh the anger out of your body—there’s just no room for it when you’re in stitches.

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It shifts the energy in the room

Have you noticed how laughing instantly shifts the energy in the room? No matter where you are—even at a funeral—if someone can make an appropriate joke for the moment, that dark cloud of doom is lifted and you feel like you can see things clearer.

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It changes the subject

Usually making a joke about the current situation leads to you cracking jokes about other things and suddenly, you’ve just changed the subject. Which is good because, half of getting out of a fight is just changing the subject.

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It reconnects you

When you laugh you understand each other. There is a correlation between sense of humor and intelligence because when something makes us laugh, it is connecting with various parts of our brain. You just feel closer to someone when you laugh together.

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Because, why not?

I mean, really. Is it so important that somebody wins this argument? Or is it more important that you find a way to get past it, and get back to enjoying one another?

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