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The easiest way to end an argument might be to jump into a time machine, suggests a new study from the University of Waterloo.
You won’t use this machine to go back in time to stop the fight from happening (although, wouldn’t that be nice). Instead, you’ll use it to look into the future.
The researchers asked more than 500 people to think about an unresolved conflict between themselves and a partner or close friend.
The participants who imagined how they would feel about the spat in one year were more likely to reinterpret the conflict, be more forgiving, and avoid assigning blame than those who thought about how the conflict made them feel today. It changed their perspective.
If you’re fuming after a fresh disagreement with your significant other, take a step back and consider the war of words in the grand scheme of your relationship, the study authors suggest.
You’re ticked now, but there’s more to your relationship than a single bad night. One fight doesn’t determine the rest of your lives, says senior study author Igor Grossmann, Ph.D.
It may work with long-standing feuds, too. Picturing the same conflict drag on for another year may push you to make amends sooner rather than later. When you think about the future instead of dwelling in the moment, you’re more likely to treat the argument as a learning experience and move on, Grossmann says.