Seniors Dealing with Disagreement

Jul 8th, 2010 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

One of the most disagreeable experiences for senior citizens is to disagree.  The human reaction is to fight (argue) or flee (avoid).  Conflict usually prompts excessive cortisol in the human body, and too much of that chemical is harmful.  It creates discord that sometimes takes a while to dissolve. 

Disagreements come with all kind of emotional responses, and some physical, most all without value or good consequences.  Effective problem solving usually brings some sort of satisfying calm, but many of us seniors just weren’t taught how to solve problems well.  We know how to ‘stand our ground’ and how to use avoidance, but neither is effective in dealing with conflict.  For many of us retirees, the likely way resolution arrives is when it is all forgotten. 

One consideration that is important to review when dealing with the subject of conflict is whether or not the issue has a material effect on you or not. If you are arguing with your spouse or partner about whether or not to buy a new car, that has a material effect on you, and the suggestions in this post will not necessarily be helpful.  If the conflict does not have a material effect on you (politics, religion, social issues, etc), and you find yourself arguing about beliefs or preferences or feelings, the following suggestions might prove helpful:

  • Being on the alert for disagreement requires quick and sensitive action.  If the potential disagreement has no material effect on me, I often leave the room or the company of those who may be the source of impending  dissent.  Obviously, in order to avoid much of what ends up being a falling out requires lots of avoidance.  This often means that much of the content of relationships will be on the surface, and that’s just the nature of many of our friendships. 
  • The older I get the more I am uncomfortable with the ambush of conflict. It just stirs up too many negative emotions.  If you are ambushed (caught off guard) with a volatile question or comment, an acceptable response might be, “That’s something I would rather not discuss.”  Then change the subject or leave the presence of the person holding the weapon.
  • If, in the middle of an argument you are able to take a mental step backward, a conflict-reducing statement might be, “You know, we are arguing about what we believe (or feel or prefer), and since I really don’t like conflict, I’d just like for us to agree to disagree about what we believe and end this discussion.”

The primary issues for senior citizens dealing with disagreement is to try to minimize such discussions as much as possible.  The potential chemical damage from excessive cortisol in your system needs to be avoided as much as possible.



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