Arguing – change the outcome
#Know what you want resolved.
Otherwise you will continually go around in circles, without knowing what you want resolved. So often, we expect our partners to fix our anger and hurt, expecting that they will automatically know how to fix our issues without knowing what these issues even are. This has the potential to further cause more feelings of hurt, confusion, anger and helplessness.
#Listen and don’t interrupt
Allow your partner to have their say and then ask them to give you the same amount of airtime, do not be tempted to interrupt or correct or to put across your viewpoint. No matter how much you are tempted to say your bit.
#Check you have understood what your partner is telling you
Too often we hear only what we want to and this leads to further arguments as neither of you feels heard nor understood. Repeat back to your partner what you think you heard, they will correct you if you have misunderstood them and vice versa
#Don’t ask for anything you’re not prepared to do first
Telling your partner to calm down when you are highly agitated does not help. Tension can be defused if one of you is able to model the behaviour you would like to bring into your relationship.
#Buy yourself time if you feel your anger spiralling
A helpful phrase to use is “let me think about that”. Arguing has a number of physiological responses your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure increases, you might start to sweat. In short, you drop into fight-or-flight mode. Extreme emotions such as anger have the ability to make us lose reason and the ability to be rational. Your mental focus narrows. On an instinctive level, all you are aware of is the perceived danger in front of you rather than nuances and possibilities and your ability to problem-solve disappears.
Taking time to think allows your body to calm down. Diverting your anger, even temporarily also sends a message that you care enough to consider your partner’s point of view. Which has the added benefit for both of you, that your argument has the potential to be defused, allowing you to hear one another.
#How to compromise without giving in
This is one of my golden phrases in helping to defuse arguments:
“You may be right.”
It works because it shows a willingness to compromise. This phrase and willingness helps to soften most people’s position, and in turn allow them to take a less adversarial stance as well. This does not mean you are giving in! What you are doing is acknowledging your partner’s point of view, which defuses emotional tension and the goal here is to be able to hear one another and understand why you are arguing.
This is an example:
“You were very rude to my mother”
“You may be right, I was angry at her tone”
You are not agreeing that the other person is right. You’re only acknowledging that there might be something to their point of view, and you are also implying that you are taking into account what they said.
These are powerful words, however, this phrase calls for genuine meaning and intention. Saying I understand conveys empathy and has the ability to stop an argument by changing its direction. Remember trying to understand someone else’s point of view isn’t an argument. Understanding your partner’s position or viewpoint does not mean you are giving in. Understanding doesn’t mean you agree. However, when you admit you understand your partner, it frees you from having to assert yourself or fix things. Saying I understand means you can just listen.
I have saved this phrase for last. It’s a game changer and also the most powerful phrase. There are fears around apologizing, people assume that an apology means an admission of guilt and therefore an acceptance of complete responsibility. This assumption often means saying you are sorry is more difficult.
Apologies sometimes just mean you understand and you are expressing sympathy and caring. For example “I am sorry I hurt you”. An apology means owning part of the responsibility: “I’m sorry my comment came across that way. It’s not what I meant.
Sometimes an apology truly is an admission of complete responsibility, and then it is a genuine and heartfelt expression of regret, which is one of the ultimate goals of navigating arguments and working through disagreements.