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How to Argue So You Won’t Damage Your Relationship

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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.

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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 the Chief Editor and Content Strategist of Lifehack. She's also a communication expert who shares tips on motivation and relationships.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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