Many of us can think of a time we lashed out, saying things we didn’t really mean in moments of anger – and regretting it afterwards. Perhaps the problem is we were never really taught how to deal with confrontation effectively, just to avoid it at all costs. Think about it: rather than getting told off for not resolving problems effectively, we were told off for arguing in the first place.
And yet, arguing is a fact of life. Rather than avoiding it at all costs, it might be better to figure out a strategy for arguing that will see us through to the other side with our self-esteem (and relationship) intact. An expert writing in Psychology Today has even suggested arguing can be a good thing because it “facilitates talk and awareness of another’s perspective”. Here are some ideas on how to do it well.
Going into an argument, misaligned intentions are a big problem. If you’re heading into it determined to get the other person to agree with you, you’re already going in the wrong direction because you’re closing yourself off to compromise. Instead of seeing the point of the argument as getting your way, see it as a chance for you both to share your feelings and come to a mutual resolution.
Timing Is Everything
Knowing when to have a discussion in the first place is just as important as navigating it. Airing your grievances over text or while drunk probably won’t work out well for anyone involved. Resolution will be far more attainable if you pick a time when all parties are clear-headed and comfortable.
Rather than reeling off everything that has ever slightly annoyed you about the other person, focus on the specifics of the issue at hand. By preparing what you want to say and how you plan to say it, you’re less likely to fly off the handle and say things you’ll later regret.
Rather than using the time when the other person is speaking to ready your next point of attack, spend the time actually listening to what they are saying. Ask them what they need and pay attention to the answers. Remember: the point here is to resolve conflict, not to be right. Part of conflict resolution is extending compassion to another’s point of view.
Take Your Time
It does no good to let an argument fester, but sometimes a timeout is needed for both of you to understand the other’s perspective. If you feel things getting heated, respectfully ask for a break. Get some fresh air, get hydrated and go back in with a fresh attitude. It’ll allow you the space you need to remind yourself of the issue you’re trying to resolve in the first place.
Be A Model
All of these points might sound great in theory, but what do you do if the other person is really bad at conflict? Do these things anyway. The other person might be giving in to their baser fighting emotions, but you don’t have to. Learning to argue effectively can take time and the best way for someone to learn how to do it is to see it in action. If the other person doesn’t know how, it’s likely they’ve never seen it modelled before. Take the opportunity to show there’s a different way to navigate conflict, and signal that this is the way you want to operate by leading by example.
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