Lately I’ve been having a number of articles I want to write on relationships. With Valentine’s day being around the corner, I thought this might be a good time to start writing them. So, this month is going to be focused on talking about all the different aspects of relationships, from how to maintain a healthy one to how to find a good one. This week, I want to look into arguments.
In relationships you are going to have arguments. It’s just a basic fact. No matter who you are dating, there will be times when you don’t see eye to eye, and there will be times when you will feel insecure, but arguments don’t have to be bad. They can be incredibly healthy and constructive. Here are tips for having a healthy argument.
Keep an eye on your body-language
One of the fastest ways you can tell if you are having a good argument or a bad one is by body language. Do you feel tense? Is your voice getting sharper or louder? Do you feel like you need to defend yourself? Is you partner acting defensive in any way? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you are either having a bad argument or are about to have one. This is a sign that you need to take a step back because the argument is going in a counterproductive direction.
Take a step back and breathe
If you catch yourself in a bad argument, the best thing you can do is take a step back and slow yourself down. When my girlfriend, Tia, and I get tense, she’ll often stop me and just give me a hug and let the tension dissipate for a moment. This allows us to stop for a moment and deal with the argument in a more constructive way or to set it aside when we’ll be in a better mindset to deal with it positively.
If for some reason you are arguing with a person who you can’t hug, there are other things you can do. Take a moment and tell a joke or stop and say an over the top compliment. Both will probably make you both smile and stop long enough to shift gears.
Productive arguments shift from the blame-game to listening and question asking. You start working from the inside-out. Instead of identifying issues with your partner, you start looking at yourself.
Good questions to ask are “What is it we both want?”, “What about this argument upsets me and why?”, “If I am tense or shouting, what insecurity is causing me to feel defensive?”, “What am I worried about or scared of?”
When you have thoroughly searched yourself, you then start asking the same questions of your partner. Keep asking eachother questions until you both know what you actually want, then you can solve the issue together. Adopting this mindset is very powerful because it shifts thinking from “me versus you” to “us versus life” and opens up a lot of possibility.
Focus on listening instead of talking
When two people are in the heat of an argument, neither person is actually listening. They are both solely focused on defending themselves and blaming the other. The fastest way to stop this cycle is to actively show that you are listening. The next time somebody is mad at you, try doing this:
Listen to what they are saying and repeat it back to them using different words.
Example: “So, it sounds like you feel unloved because we haven’t been together a lot this week.”
When they confirm you understood them correctly, validate their feelings.
Example: “It’s understandable that you’d feel neglected.”
Usually when you do this, you’ll see a huge shift in demeanor. The person who was enraged at you will suddenly be open, listening, and even apologetic. This is because you broke the cycle and they now feel heard and can now return the favor. This technique is amusing, because you can even know somebody is using it on you, and you’ll still feel better despite the fact they’re basically using a script.
So to summarize, the big difference between a good argument and a bad one is basically whether you are working together or against eachother to find a solution. When you can catch yourself in a bad argument and shift gears it’s pretty amazing. It allows for healthier relationships and more opportunity to grow. Try it and hopefully you’ll find it awesome too.
Images provided by Vic and John via Flickr