Written by Dr. Eric Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay
“An eye for an eye will only make the world blind” ~Mahatma Gandhi
Arguments and relationships go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. Unfortunately, arguments are not as sweet as jelly and don’t go over as smooth as peanut butter. When we argue with our loved ones, it is important to remember that it’s not necessary to deliver a knock out blow. Think of the argument as a heart to heart conversation and not a bare-knuckle showdown.
Here are some simple steps to remember when arguing:
Before you engage in an argument with your loved one, take a moment to reflect on your feelings. Ask yourself, “Why are you upset?” Are you really upset because he or she was late or could it be your partner has not been giving you enough attention? It is important to know why you are upset so you can communicate this clearly.
2. Discuss one issue at a time
Once you clarify your feelings you can begin to discuss why you are upset. Many times in the heat of the moment we bring up past digressions and end up arguing about something else entirely except the matter at hand. Try to keep the argument about the current disconnect by remembering to discuss one issue at a time.
3. No degrading language
Discuss the issue, not the person. All attempts must be made to keep the conversation civil. It is important to avoid name calling, swearing or put-downs. Keep in mind that negative words are a manifestation of negative feelings. There is never a good enough reason to call your partner a derogatory name. There are unpardonable words that can leave a partner feeling emotionally scarred making it harder for them to receive your love. Remember, this is someone you love and you really do not want to hurt them.
4. Express yourself
Use words to express how you feel and take responsibility for those feelings. Start your statements with ” I.” I feel angry. I feel hurt. By starting statements with “I” you are able to connect with your words with your emotions. Avoid using statements beginning with “You.” Statements starting with “You” tend to make the other person feel attacked which often leads them to shut down emotionally.
5. Take turns talking
It is important to take turns speaking. Once you have had your turn, it is important to listen to what your partner has to say. If this is difficult, use a timer and a set amount of time for each person to speak. You can also designate an item to use like a talking stick. Whoever holds the item can speak. Just make sure you remember to pass the item! The talking stick method has been used for hundreds of years by indigenous people. The “Talking stick” can be any object.
6. Knock down the walls
Stonewalling is the refusal to communicate or express emotions. It is very common during conflicts. People often do this when they want to avoid an uncomfortable conversation or prefer not to engage in an emotional discussion that may lead to a fight. Stonewalling can include a refusal to discuss feelings or walking out of a conversation. When you are both in a “sober emotional state,” make a pact with one another that you will not stonewall and will engage in a meaningful discussion no matter how challenging it may be. If one of you feels the issue warrants a discussion, the other person must respect the request by engaging and listening.
7. No Yelling
It may feel great to unleash your frustration on your partner by yelling at them, but many times this only adds fuel to the fire. When a person is yelled at, they tend to yell back in self-defense. This often results in an escalation of self-defensive responses from both parties. Yelling typically results in further alienation and frustration. Sometimes, a partner will not engage in the yelling but will passively accept the treatment. This only leads to fostering resentment by the person being yelled at. Remember, remain calm and use words to make your point, not volume.
8. Take a timeout
In a perfect world, we would all be able to communicate effectively with each other and have no need for rules. You are not expected to print up this page and follow each step while you are arguing. This is not a script for the perfect fight. In the real world, voices will be raised and perhaps a few hurtful words will be used. When you feel that the temperature is rising, take a time out until both parties cool off. Agree on a time to continue the conversation. It is important to agree on another meeting to continue the discussion so one or both parties do not attempt to stonewall.
If you reach an impasse in the argument, try to come to a compromise. If you can’t reach a compromise then agree to disagree. Try to understand each other’s point of view. Discussing and attempting to understand will help soothe negative feelings. Communication is one of the strongest pillars of the house of love, so it is important to reinforce and strengthen this skill whenever possible.
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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