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How to Have a Meaningful Argument with a Loved One

Have you ever had an argument with a loved one and thought, “Wow, that was productive”? I don’t mean in terms of whether you won or lost, but rather how you felt and whether there were any breakthroughs. If the first sentence sounds unthinkable, I have been in the same, frustrating boat many times. However, as I outline below, there are various steps you can take to transform a run-of-the-mill disagreement into one that produces meaningful results.

Make sure to engage with your loved one the same way you want to be spoken to.

Ever feel like you are not able to get a single point across to the person you are having a disagreement with? Chances are, the other person feels the exact same way. As someone else is speaking, exhibit the kind of reaction you’d like to receive in return. Wish they would meditate on your words rather than shoot you down or quickly come up with a rebuttal? Do so. Want to be able to make your point without constant interruption? Offer your loved one the same courtesy. I put this piece of advice first because I find it completely changes the atmosphere and makes space for listening and understanding rather than hostility and tension. 

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Realize it is a privilege to work through it.

While it may not feel like one at the time, think of how you would have felt if your loved one simply blocked your number or cut you out of their life. You’d possibly wish you were able to have the argument you are having now. Arguments can often feel difficult and futile, but remember that the easier option is for someone to alter their relationship with you and not share a reason or even listen to your input. Respect and appreciate the fact that your loved one is using their time, energy, and emotional capacity to voice their point of view and allowing you to do the same. Save your half-hearted, forced apologies and take this time to be genuine.

Avoid gaslighting and ask questions.

Gaslighting, or attempts to cause someone to second guess their experience, can be more present in your actions than you may think. Forms of gaslighting include, but definitely are not limited to, strict denial of another person’s memories, labeling someone as “overdramatic” or “sensitive,” and shaming them for voicing their experiences through statements such as, “You have issues.” While you may have forgotten about the event in question or feel the other person is exaggerating, what will gaslighting a loved one do for you? Sure, it protects you from having to accept and shoulder the blame for the pain someone else is feeling, but if you want to allow your loved one to heal, then ask questions to better understand. Practice empathy. Actively listen. The effort you put into gaslighting can easily be redirected to helping the other person heal and further mending your relationship. 

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Identify what would make this confrontation meaningful to you.

I actually stopped mid-sentence during an argument when asked what I needed from the other person to move on. I knew I wanted to voice my frustration, but I never considered my reason for arguing. Whether it’s giving or receiving an apology or simply generating understanding from a loved one, identify what your objective is for engaging in an argument. Additionally, take breaks if you feel too passionate or emotional to be able to calmly engage in the topic. This will allow you to avoid losing patience and continue to make it a meaningful conversation.

Do not aim to win.

Arguments can often feel like a competition to prove who is the most right, but it is important to realize that both sides are speaking from individual experiences and viewpoints. Seeing the argument solely as something to “win” makes it difficult to be open-minded and enable a productive conversation. That being said, avoid making assumptions and bringing up multiple arguments at the same time. This will further make the listener feel attacked and less willing to engage in a meaningful exchange of thoughts and perspectives. 

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Understand when the person is not willing to effectively engage

If you are willing to hear the other person out but you are not getting the same consideration, let them know. This can take the form of, “I’m feeling frustrated because you are not giving my thoughts the same attention and open-mindedness I am giving yours,” or, “Please give me the chance to speak as I have been doing for you.” However, if addressing the other person’s actions does not solve the problem or brings about more arguments, know that the other person may not be in the right space to have the conversation. Coming up with another time to speak about the issue may be a potential next step. 

Of course, the gravity of disagreements range greatly, as well as the intentions and actions of the person you are speaking with, so there really is no one-size-fits-all for meaningful arguments. In my experience, the tips listed above have offered me the chance to express my viewpoint while remaining open-minded and willing to listen. Having productive arguments is crucial for maintaining healthy relationships, and it is therefore worth noting what actions and mindset best suit you.