When we argue with people, whether they be loved ones or mere acquaintances, after the fight is done and all the nasty things have been said, more often than not, trust is broken and the relationship has been damaged. Use our guide to defusing arguments before they reach a point of no return.
- Learn to listen
When someone is angry with you (or you with them), listening is imperative to reaching mutual ground. If you’re not willing to listen to the person you’re arguing with, then the argument is bound to end in disaster. Pay attention to common-ground statements such as “We need to stop arguing about the same thing the whole time” or “We should just agree on something” because it means that the other party sees both you and themselves as a part of the solution.
- Use “I” statements
People tend to get defensive when they hear things like “You make me feel horrible” because they’re very accusatory statements. Rather say things like “I feel horrible when you…”, as you pin the attention on what you’re feeling instead of what the other party is doing. This will encourage them to reflect on what they’re doing that could potentially be making you feel this way. If the other party is angry with you, then make sure your responses to them are “I” statements as well. For example, “I understand how my actions made you feel that way”.
Huffington Post shared a great acronym to help their readers with their listening skills when in an argument:
Curious – Being open to an understanding of what caused the conflict in the first place.
Undefended – Try to not blame the other party, and try to understand (without being defensive) their point of view.
Respectful – No matter how angry you are, speak kindly.
Empathetic – Make sure you remain sensitive to their feelings. There’s a reason they’re upset.
- Deal with your emotions
When you find yourself in an argument, your emotions (and the emotions of the person you’re arguing with) are likely to be heightened. Before you tackle the argument, find time for both of you to calm down and collect yourselves. Perhaps go for a walk, or write your feelings down. Once you’ve tackled the emotion, you can tackle the problem at hand.
- Silence or violence
Keep an eye out for signs of silence or violence. This is the argument equivalent of fight or flight. If one of the parties to the argument suddenly starts withdrawing what they say, or just stop providing meaningful input, it’s a sign that they’ve retreated into silence. Violence, on the other hand, cuts the parties off from meaningful dialogue. Someone who’s become violent will start making accusations and will use hurtful language, usually in the form of insults. If you notice these signs, make a valid attempt at bringing the conversation back to a safe place.
- Safe place
You can bring the conversation back to safety by agreeing with the other party. Start your statements with phrases such as “Yes I agree”. It feels natural to proceed with “Yes I agree, but”, however, you shouldn’t do this. Replace the “but” with “and”, and your conversation will flow smoother than it would using other phrases. Using the word “but” will make the other party feel like you’re agreeing with them purely to calm them down, which will result in them getting even more upset.
- The same page
When we argue, things often get out of control. We bring up things that were fought about previously and somehow find a way to incorporate them into the current argument – often as a way to show how the other party is wrong yet again. Don’t do this. Make sure you don’t lose sight of the point of the argument, and what you were actually arguing about in the first place. The parties to the argument need to stay on the same page of the argument in order to find resolve.
Arguments damage relationships – use our advice to make sure that the effects of that damage are not everlasting, and can be mediated while in the early stages.
Have you ever gotten into an argument with someone you cared about and resolved it successfully? Give us your tips below.