Having an argument is a natural part of any relationship. Unfortunately, too many people correlate arguments with toxicity and see them as bad, however, two people disagreeing is a natural occurrence of any relationship. It is not the fact that you argue that can be bad, but how you argue. In this post, I share 6 rules you should follow when having an argument to keep healthy and positive relationships.
For many young adults, relationships and dating are highly important. Many people do not realize that conflict and arguments are a natural part of healthy relationships. No two people will agree on everything, but if you argue correctly and like an adult, you come out unscathed with healthy solutions. Healthy fighting will also prevent your relationships from deteriorating.
Like most things in life there is a right and wrong way to go about things. When an argument goes wrong it can be detrimental. You may not leave that person or end the relationship, but you will certainly remember the hurt and pain that built up during that argument. That hurt and pain over time can build into bigger issues like resentment. To try and prevent that here are a couple rules I try to follow when its time to put the gloves on.
1. Pick and Chose Your Battles
I’ve heard this phrase a lot in my lifetime (I’m sure you have too) and I’ve said it a couple of times myself. You want to think to yourself, “Is it really necessary to get into an argument about which team is better?” Or “if cupcakes are tastier than muffins?” Certainly, there are bigger things of concern, bigger heavier things that you should be worried about like getting basic needs met. A general question for picking and choosing your battles would be “would I want to tell my friend/family about this one?” If you answer no, its most likely not worth it.- (here is a funny tidbit, one time my now husband then boyfriend once got into a fight about the blinds…)
Now in some relationships, there are things that may seem petty to others that really important to you. If you are a chef/baker than cupcakes and brownies may be of great importance to you. If you are a sports die hard, then a particular team may be important to you. At that point, you may want to consider this question “will this debate progress or digress this relationship?” If it makes the relationship digress then you may want to consider the importance of the topic.
2. Stop and Think
There is some science behind this rule. Have you ever heard someone say “I don’t know what happened, I just blacked out on her, everything went blank.” In some of those cases, that person became so enraged that their brain shut off and went into survival mode. While in survival mode the frontal cortex shuts off, and the brain goes into a primitive state mostly using the back portion to carry out standard functions (breathing, standing, etc.). This basically means that the place where all of the processing and thinking happens is off, and the body is in control. For some, this can be very scary. Nobody wants to be the person who says “I don’t know, I completely blacked out, it wasn’t until I was washing the blood off of the knife…”
So to avoid the blackouts and to remain in control try to stop and think. Notice your environment and the things around you. You should care if you’re in the supermarket screaming at the top of your lungs and everyone is staring. You should notice if your yelling and the other person is not. Thinking also helps you to listen to what the other person is saying. If you’re listening you can avoid making the same statement over and over again. Or blurting out random statements that have nothing to do with the argument.
I know you want to be heard and you want for your feelings to be validated but to gain that you have to listen to hear the other person’s perspective not to reply for the sake of replying. It’s helpful to write down what you need, say and then reread it, and then read it again. By doing this you can easily hone in what is necessary to say and what is not. Then you can read out loud how you feel. If you’re in the moment don’t be so quick to shoot out responses and definitely think before you speak.
3. No Dirty Fighting
Dirty fighting is when you say and do things during an argument that hit below the belt. Everyone has done this in some point in their life. Parents do it to their children, adults do it in relationships, friends do it to friends, and so on and so forth. In relationships, we become extremely close to other people leading us to learn things about others, that when brought up it could possibly hurt them. Dirty fighting is when you bring up those things with the intention of hurting or spiting the other person. We do it because we want them to feel the hurt that we feel, or we do not want to feel like we are losing this battle, or we are simply trying to get the other person to back up/ stop the argument.
The things we say can cut like knives so be careful. When in a disagreement its best to use I statements such as: “When you said ___ I felt ____,” or “It hurt me ___ to hear that ___.” After you stated how you felt after a certain action then you may want to bring it home with a statement like this: “I want this to work, let’s figure this out together” or “help me to understand what you need from me.” When you put those statements together it may look something like: “When you pointed your finger at me and said I was not smart, I felt cornered and hurt that you would say that. I don’t want to argue about the shopping spree, instead lets figure out a way together to make this right” or “It was really disappointing to find out that you did not tell the truth, I want to be able to trust you, however, find that impossible if you are not honest with me, how can we make this work?” These statements really help a person state their feelings and then move towards a resolution.
4. Sit Down
Go back in your mind and think about every argument you’ve had. Think about the especially bad ones. How many of those arguments that involved yelling and screaming were you standing in? It is a lot easier to yell at someone if you are standing. It is also a lot easier to feel like you are being attacked if you are being yelled at by someone who is standing over you. This is because when you standing the organs necessary for breath support are not being cut off. But if you’re sitting down, you really have to think about breathing in order to belt out why you’re so angry. You would most likely be out of breath when you’re finished yelling if you were sitting.
By sitting down you become level with that person. You also cut down on yelling because it feels unnatural to us in a seated position. Even trained vocalist don’t sit to sing or speak loudly. When is the last time you seen Beyonce sing “Single Ladies” seated? Sitting helps you remain calm and you can really process all of what is going on around you.
5. Know the No Zone and DON’T Go There
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. We all have a no zone, and if you go there, you most likely will not return. The No Zone is the place you go that triggers someone or reminds them, of place that harbors a lot of hurt and pain (more so than dirty fighting). This is a place that all parties are well aware of. No-Zones are like opening up old wounds that have never really healed. Just don’t go there!
If you do go there, then that says a lot about how you argue! Know that arguments are not meant to hurt but to voice and resolve an issue. You can never resolve an issue by wounding a person!
6. Use Your Listening Ears
Listening is the most important part of argument! How else will you know what a person is trying to say if you’re not listening? Listening is more than hearing. It’s more that taking in and acknowledging sounds. Listening is comprehending.
It’s hard to show that we are listening. One way to show listening skills is by repeating what your partner said. Basically, it would look something like this “So from what I hear you are mad because I forgot to take out the garbage, I am really sorry that this made you upset, sometimes I forget.” Now, this can go really well or really bad if you guess and your completely off, especially if your partner was really upset because you forgot to take the cookies out of the oven. Remember you can’t listen if your talking so don’t forget rule number 2, and stop and think before you blurt out something completely off!
There you have it, simple rules to a good clean fight. For those of you who skipped straight to the end here is a quick recap:
- Pick and choose your battles: Some things are not worth the anguish
- Stop and think: Give yourself a chance to process what is going on before you say something crazy!
- No Dirty Fighting: Keep it above the belt
- Sit down: Try not to fight standing up
- Known the No Zone and Don’t Go There: JUST DON’T DO IT
- Use your listening ears: Listen and comprehend to find the point of this argument
Please remember you should always contact your personal clinical advisor if you are having severe arguments. Arguments are like drinking, you should do it safely and responsibly! Happy fighting! Do you have any rule for when you get into an argument? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Until next time…
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