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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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Siobhan Harmer

Siobhan is a passionate writer sharing about motivation and happiness tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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