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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 February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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