On the day of an argument or avoided argument, people who felt their encounter was resolved reported roughly half the reactivity of those whose encounters were not resolved, the findings indicated.
“Everyone experiences stress in their daily lives. You aren’t going to stop stressful things from happening. But the extent to which you can tie them off, bring them to an end and resolve them is definitely going to pay dividends in terms of your well-being,” said researcher Robert Stawski from the Oregon State University.
For the study, published in The Journals of Gerontology, the team used data from an in-depth survey of more than 2,000 people who were interviewed about their feelings and experiences for eight days in a row.
The researchers looked at reports of both arguments and avoided arguments, defined as instances where the person could have argued about something but chose to let it slide so as not to have a disagreement.
They then measured how the incident affected the person’s reported change in negative and positive emotions, both for the day of the encounter and the day after it occurred.
The measure of how an experience affects someone emotionally, an increase in negative emotions or a decrease in positive emotions, on the day it occurs is known as “reactivity,” while “residue” is the prolonged emotional toll the day after the experience occurs.
The results showed that on the day of an argument or avoided argument, people who felt their encounter was resolved reported roughly half the reactivity of those whose encounters were not resolved.
On the day following an argument or avoided argument, the results were even starker — people who felt the matter was resolved showed no prolonged elevation of their negative affect the next day.