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How to argue well
Whilst many of us attempt to avoid conflict at all costs, disagreement is to be expected in any long-lasting relationship, whether that’s with a romantic partner, best friend, sibling or parent. In fact, arguing in a healthy manner can be seen as potential for growth, providing the opportunity for any underlying difficulties to be brought to the surface and resolved.
According to Family Relationship Services Australia, how you handle conflict and what it does to your relationships is what matters.
‘A certain amount of conflict is a sign of a mature and trusting relationship. Each person feels free to express differences of opinion and share negative as well as positive feelings while they work out better ways to live and work together.’
It’s worth remembering, however, that conflict isn’t always expressed through a loud shouting much – quiet withdrawal or an inability to communicate with or listen to each other, can just as easily cause feelings of frustration, anger and isolation.
If an inability to resolve conflict is having a negative impact on your relationships, take a look at these simple steps designed to help you approach differences in opinion in a healthy, mature manner.
1. Don’t over-react
Arguments can quickly escalate from a minor difference in opinion (‘I wanted to go to Bondi for breakfast, not Bronte’) to all-out-war (‘I want a divorce’) if you have the tendency to over-react. Rather than letting your emotions run away with you and pulling out the ‘ultimatum’ (which could put your entire relationship on the line), try and put the argument in perspective and think back to what sparked the conflict in the first place.
2. Be clear about what you want
Unless you’re specific about what it is you want to change, the other party won’t be able to do anything about it. State the problem clearly and use ‘I’ statements not ‘You’ statements to avoid pointing the finger. For example, rather than approaching the argument with ‘You always…’, which will automatically get your partner off-side, try starting with ‘I feel upset when…’
3. Be prepared
It’s easy to kick off an argument in the heat of the moment, but it’s much better to take some time to prepare. Relationships Australia recommends choosing a low stress time, away from third parties such as children, but advises not to leave it too long – within 24 hours of the trigger event is a good guide. It will also give you time to work out whether there is any underlying issue that needs to be discussed.
4. Don’t keep score
Keeping a tally of your past grievances – and bringing them up during future arguments – is neither productive nor healthy. In order to resolve conflict successfully you need to focus on the matter in hand, and bringing up past arguments will only cloud the issue.
5. Learn to listen
Arguments typically happen when two people with different opinions believe they’re in the right. Taking the time to listen and understand the other person’s point of view during an argument not only makes the other person feel heard, it may also change your opinion or at least help you move forwards towards a compromise.
6. Keep it between the two of you
You might be tempted to add credibility to your argument with another person’s opinion (‘my mum always said you were….’), but this will not only prolong your own conflict, it could also damage other important relationships.
7. Take time out
Emotions can run high during an argument, at which point unhelpful insults or ultimatums can be thrown about. Whilst these aren’t always heart-felt, they can linger long after the conflict has been resolved. Rather than get to this point, recognise when your own argument is getting out of control and take some time out to calm down. You can then approach the conversation more rationally and with less emotion later on.
8. Move on
If you feel the need to have the last word, or to ‘win’ the argument, your relationship may get lost in the process. Rather, it’s better to agree to disagree, acknowledge the other’s opinion, and move forwards. No one will agree 100 per cent of the time, but if you can agree on a compromise, there’s much less chance of the same argument rearing its head in the future.
What about you? How well do you think you argue? Do you avoid conflict or do you believe in your ability to communicate?
About the Author
Lizzy has more than ten years’ experience in the print and digital publishing arena and is the Editor at Single File. Having moved from the UK to Australia in 2008, Lizzy has worked for a number of leading publishers in Sydney and has particular expertise in the health, wellness and travel markets. If you have any questions for Lizzy, you can send them across by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.