Disagreements are never fun. The presence of an issue between you and another person can often provoke anger, sadness or disappointment. Of course, disagreements look different depending on the individuals involved. For some people, it’s yelling. For others, it’s the silent treatment. Though arguing is inevitable in most relationships (yes, even Allie and Noah argued in The Notebook), there are effective ways to get your point across. There are also methods of disagreement that can seriously harm your relationship without even knowing it. Whether it’s your partner, parent, best friend, or coworker, learning how to handle conflict effectively can greatly improve your well-being and interpersonal relationships.
Healthy Argument Techniques
Listen to understand, not to reply.
In an argument, it’s easy to feel like you’re right and the other person is wrong. When communicating, you may listen to their side of things for the sole purpose of coming up with the best comeback you can think of. This type of arguing is problematic because rather than truly understanding the other person’s perspective, a competitive nature arises and usually adds fuel to the fire. Next time someone is telling you how they feel, listen to what they have to say and try and think about it objectively. This may require you to walk away from the argument, which brings me to my next point.
Take a time-out
It’s completely okay to walk away from the situation if you feel like it isn’t going anywhere. In the heat of the moment, sometimes it’s best for both parties to take a step back before escalating the fight or saying something they’ll regret.
Use “I” Statements
Shifting the way you state your feelings can be extremely beneficial for mutual understanding. When expressing yourself, refrain from putting the focus on the other person. Why? Psychologically, we are more likely to be defensive and upset when we feel like we are being targeted or blamed. Instead of saying
“You’re always busy, you don’t care to spend time with me,” you can say
“I feel like I’m not being attended to, and it makes me feel upset and lonely.”
Two major benefits come out of this technique. Firstly, the other person is unable to fight back or react. After all, how can they argue with your own feelings? Secondly, you are able to recognize and label the emotions you are feeling, which can help progress towards a resolution.
Unhealthy Argument Techniques
Stonewalling is a term used to describe the deliberate avoidance of problems within your relationship. This can look like the silent-treatment, emotional unavailability and/or defensiveness. For some people, stonewalling is a negative behavioural pattern often seeded in one’s upbringing. For others, stonewalling is a tactic of emotional abuse used to confuse, upset, or disorient the other person. Nevertheless, it is a harmful way to argue. This is because it is often used by an individual to anger the other person or to get what they want through manipulation. If you find yourself using these methods, I suggest digging deep and working towards ways that you feel comfortable expressing yourself.
Making personal attacks
Name-calling and hitting below the belt are some of the worst things you can do in an argument. In times of anger, it’s easy to target the other person’s weaknesses (especially if you’re aware of these weaknesses). It’s as simple as blurting out: “You’re so lazy!” or “Stop being so insecure!” Personal attacks are some of the hardest things to get past because they are often the most hurtful. Keep the focus on the argument at hand and don’t generalize the issue to someone’s character flaw.
Don’t bring up the past.
Sometimes it can be tempting to bring up a past instance to prove your point. Maybe your partner forgot to do the dishes last week and forgot again this week. Maybe your best friend has a habit of ditching plans. However, if these past examples have already sparked conflict and have been dealt with in the past, there’s no use bringing up every single thing that someone has done wrong. Remember, people are continuously growing and evolving, and it can be discouraging to have your past mistakes thrown in your face. Be patient and let the person know you’re upset but want them to do better.
There are caveats to this point, however. If a person is showing you consistent disrespectful, violent, or even abusive behavior, know that this person will likely keep doing it. Do not put up with anything of the sort and understand when enough is enough.