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How to Argue So You Won’t Damage Your Relationship

How to Argue So You Won’t Damage Your Relationship

All couples argue. Or at least all healthy couples do. Maybe your partner is running late for an event that’s important to you. Or he or she forgets to update you on their whereabouts, or has too many opposite sex friends, or forgot to bring you something after work. The list for conflict causers is endless.

But the best relationships are “thick” with arguments. It doesn’t matter what you argue about, but how you argue.

When you fight, you feel fear

Conflict carries a negative connotation. If your partner doesn’t agree with you, you may feel a sense of betrayal and lash out at them because you are hurt. Human nature dictates that when you are hurt or threatened you should retaliate. So most people retaliate by doing things that are irrational.

Some people give the silent treatment. They freeze their partner out by refusing to talk to them about anything. This is done vindictively and is different than taking a break to properly process their feelings.

Some disappear without checking in for hours or even days on end. They do this to cause the other partner to worry or fear that the relationship is over. It is a manipulative and hurtful tactic even though they don’t mean to do so.

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Some attack their partner by name calling or belittling instead of focusing on the issue. They lash out and attack their partner’s character instead of the issue. This is fighting “dirty” and can really wound their partner.

Some people make the issue black or white with their point of view as right. This happens when someone refuses to be open-minded and consider their partner’s point of view. This greatly hinders negotiations.

Others bad mouthing their partner to their friends or even posting cryptic messages on social media. They unfairly color their relationship and their partner when they negatively publicize their issues. Having an outlet is good, but an unproductive outlet like Facebook is bad. And once you’ve said something bad about your partner, people remember what you’ve said.

Retaliation and negative behaviors like the ones listed above are driven by fear. Feeling fear is natural. People are fear that they aren’t good enough, or their partner isn’t good enough. The are also afraid that aren’t worthy of being loved and that they will lose their partner.

Love could be a scary thing. Opening yourself up to love and entering an intimate relationship is risky. But anything worth having is worth the risk. When you are truly in love, you open yourself up and become vulnerable. You are exposed and subject to being hurt.

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How to fight right

The key to healthily handling conflicts that arise in your relationship is to respond constructively—with love and logic. And work to avoid knee-jerk fear-based reactions.

Conflict is inevitable. Instead of waiting for it to arise and dealing with it on the fly, it is far more productive to take a proactive, intentional approach to dealing with conflict. While you can’t anticipate the nature of the argument, you can plan a tactical response. This is how to constructively deal with conflict with your partner next time:

1. Work to control your response

In lieu of flying off the handle and laying into your partner, take a moment to check your emotions and gather your thoughts. When you feel anger and other negative emotions begin to bubble toward the surface, take a break and calm yourself down.

You are allowed to feel how you feel. Your feelings are valid and legitimate. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be expressed at that moment. Your feelings will change and fluctuate, it’s important to understand how you truly feel (at least to some extent) and why before you discuss.

2. Watch your mouth

Once you’ve had a chance to process and sort through your emotions, then you are ready to share your feelings with your partner.

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When discussing the issue, be open and honest about your feelings. Use “I feel” statements[1] and try to avoid negative “you” statements. Explain why you feel the way you do and allow your partner to ask clarifying questions. The key here is to discuss your emotions without giving into them. It’s tough, but it’s doable.

3. Don’t run away or avoid conflict

Avoiding or refusing to deal with conflict doesn’t make it go away. Avoiding issues will turn molehills into mountains, and everything becomes a huge fight.

The primary goal in any conflict is to resolve it. But there are other underlying benefits to addressing conflicts even when resolution is not possible. Make your partner feel heard, valuable, special and loved is far more important than any temporary dispute. Stay and fight fair.

4. Accept your differences

More often than not, there may not be a clear right or wrong answer. Although your viewpoints may be on the opposite end of the spectrum, they both are valid and worth considering.

In some cases, after you’ve hashed out how both of you feel in a calm and rational manner, you may have to agree to disagree. Reaching an impasse can feel like a complete waste of time initially, but going through the process of trying to resolve the conflict will strengthen the relationship long-term. Although a resolution isn’t reached, both parties leave the discussion feeling heard, validated and valued. Everybody wins.

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5. Choose your confidants wisely

Discussing the issue with someone else is a great way to gain a different perspective on the issue. The danger with talking to a third party is they could offer advice that could exacerbate the situation. When choosing a relationship confidant, make sure they know you well, have your best interest at heart, are objective and will lovingly tell you the truth instead of what you want to hear.

Once you’ve gotten good solid advice and have had a chance to reevaluate your position, go back and readdress the issue with your partner.

Fight to improve, not to damage

It’s normal for a couple to quarrel from time to time—it comes with the territory. Conflicts and arguments themselves don’t jeopardize a relationship. How you chose to respond does.

Successful couples have the ability to solve problems and let them go. They focus on taking care of the issue rather than attacking the person. Even when angry, they find ways to be upset and stay close at the same time.

Conflict gives you and your partner the opportunity to identify issues, address them, improve yourselves and the relationship and move on. All couples fight. Successful couples fight right.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Alva Pratt on Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Good Therapy: “I” Message

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Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the Content Strategist of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on January 24, 2021

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

    More Tips on How to Say No

    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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