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What Are Our Arguments Really About?

What Are Our Arguments Really About?

Assuming that you are a human being reading this – apologises if you are not – I suspect that you will have argued with individuals close to you at various points in your life. Conflicts are sometimes considered to be a negative aspect of life but if you begin to contemplate the situation a little more, arguing can often be a positive, constructive experience. High Existence offers an interesting perspective on why we argue:

WIthin the animal kingdom, if you’re a lion and another lion encroaches on your territory you roar and growl to let the other guy know this is your space. Testing the water, he roars and growls right back at you. Often, after a series of traded threats the outsider will stand down and the argument dissipates. Occasionally, the other lion does not back off and a bloody fight ensues until one is mortally injured or submits. Sound familiar? How often do we argue with our significant others, our siblings, our parents, our friends with the overwhelming need to be right, to be the victor? And what’s wrong with that? Well, wrong is a matter of perspective, but I will say that we are not lions…most of us, anyway.

In our animalistic past, we did in fact have to fight with others to protect ourselves, our family, our territory. In that sense, arguing or fighting is a survival instinct, a threat response. The problem is that during an argument, unless we are very conscious of our feelings, thought processes, prejudices, etc., then our brain automatically defers to that instinct. This means that every time we get into it with someone, the instinctual response is to be right, to dominate. While this may work for animals, it doesn’t yield such effective results for us.

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Arguing constructively

“If you’re arguing with someone for more than five minutes, chances are it’s not about them or their actions. It’s about you.”

My grandfather

When I first heard that I thought I understood but it has taken me many years to decipher that statement. I’m still finding deeper truth in those words every time I engage in an argument. I’m realizing that staying present in those tough situations is paramount. By ‘present’ I mean taking a moment to breathe, check-in with oneself, and to honestly examine what is there. We cannot argue effectively if we are unaware of what is going on inside. Furthermore, once we confront those thoughts and emotions, we must learn to accept. For instance, if you’re furious, allow yourself to feel furious. Notice, I did not say act furious. But how can I feel something and not let it affect my actions? Isn’t that just repression? Let’s see.

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Christina (my significant other) left the country for two weeks with some friends. I wasn’t able to accompany her due to work and a few other obligations. We’ve been together for eight years, and it had been a while since we had spent any extended time apart. So we agreed that we would set aside some time each day to check-in. One morning, we had begun one such conversation when suddenly the rest of the group arrived at her room and wanted to have breakfast. She told me that she had to go and I asked if we were going to speak later. She was getting flustered and couldn’t give me a straight answer because she was unsure of the plans for the day. I said, “fine” and we hung up.

I was furious. I felt completely dejected and blown off. In my fury, I sent her a very nasty message telling her how ridiculous I thought it was that she couldn’t make a few minutes for me, and blaming her for being inconsiderate and cruel. In turn, she called me back, full of anger, and told me how inconsiderate was acting. And so we argued and blamed each other for everything and anything. We became two ferocious lions trying to subdue each other.

I had to sit with my fury that day, which was a good thing. It allowed me to examine what was really happening. It had been a long time since I had experienced that sort of anger. Why now? I sat in a meditative state. I focused on my breath first to calm myself, and then on the anger. I allowed the thoughts and feelings to flow. I realized two things. First, when Christina blew me off, I wanted revenge. I wanted her to experience the pain I felt. This realization led to the next: I was feeling lonely and insecure being so far from her for the first time in years. I felt how much I really missed her.

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The next day, we finally spoke and I told her what I had discovered. There was resistance at first. She was still angry. In turn, I felt my own lingering anger start to rise up. Instead of reacting, I thought about what I had learned. I sat and listened to her talk. She confided that she was feeling stressed out because the trip was non-stop activity, and she was catching a cold. She told me that the way I had acted the day before had really hurt her and made her feel guilty. I apologized for my incendiary behavior, but I also calmly told her that when she more or less hung up on me, I had felt devalued and unimportant. She then apologized, and admitted she could have handled the situation better. We both admitted to still feeling a little angry, and that was OK. No one won. No one lost.

Enslaved to the Unconsciousness

Get the picture? Now imagine what that situation could have been if we had started in the place we ended. Maybe I would have started the conversation that day with the feelings I had been experiencing. In turn, she may have also told me about her troubles. The point is that even before the fight began, we had not been conscious of our mental/emotional processes. If we had, it may not have happened. Or it may have happened regardless, but we would have approached it differently. We would have been able to have a constructive argument from the get-go, which probably would have dissipated much sooner.

We get tangled up in our anger and it blinds us to the truth. The minute that occurs, we start growling, roaring, and blaming. Only when Christina and I spoke peacefully, candidly, and honestly did the healing begin. It then became not about who was right, but about how we were feeling. Why is this so effective? Because you cannot argue with emotion. Your feelings are your feelings and no one can tell you otherwise. The difficult part is learning how to speak openly about those emotions. It can be a frightening and vulnerable position, but those are just more insecurities we must acknowledge and accept.

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The bottom line is that when we argue with someone else, it is about what’s going on inside of us. When we realize that, then arguments can be an enormously constructive part of life and love. As such, learning how to argue constructively is a must if you want to be in any long-term relationship—romantic, familial, or platonic.

Why We Argue | Highexistence

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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