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Arguing the Right Way

manuelita otero

Have you ever been in an argument about something apparently small and insignificant that without warning turns into a heated discussion, bigger than you could ever imagine?  Suddenly you are arguing about things that have nothing to do with what you were talking about. You blow up and then stop speaking to each other. You are angry, hurt and confused about what just happened.

The Free Dictionary defines argument as: a “Discussion in which the parties involved express disagreement with one another”. It’s unrealistic to expect to always agree with people around you, especially those closest to you. We could say that arguments are not necessarily a bad thing; they are a part of life. The problem is that often we don’t know how to argue.

If you really care about the people you argue with, then you want to learn how to turn disagreements into opportunities to get to know yourself and others better. This may help get you started:

-Words matter: There’s a difference between: “you are lazy” and “you didn’t pick up the clothes”. The first statement is an attack and if someone is attacking you, you will most likely defend yourself and strike back. Instead of attacking the person, describe the situation or event that started the whole thing.

-All or nothing never works: In an argument, words like “never or always” lead to a bigger dispute.  They are rooted in emotion and deep feelings of being unloved or unappreciated.  They are based on personal feelings that may not be related at all to the cause of your argument.   

-Pause: Many times in the middle of an argument, emotions take the best from you and you end up saying things that are hurtful. Once a word comes out it is impossible to take it back and the damage is done. Know yourself; when you realize you are getting very angry ask for a few minutes to cool down.  

-In it to win: Most likely when you argue you want to win, you want to be right and sometimes you may do anything to achieve that “sweet” victory. But is it worth it? Are you willing to hurt someone you love just to be right?

-Dig deep: If something is bothering too much or if it is appearing repeatedly in your arguments then you need to find the root of the problem, the real cause of what’s bothering you.

-The waiting game: Waiting and hoping that things will cool down and things will be back to “normal” without an apology or an analysis of what happened is an invitation for it to happen again and again. Don’t wait too long to say you are sorry; don’t let pride get in the way.  

-Fight fair: Don’t say things that you know will hurt the other person. Don’t lie, manipulate or use information that you know makes the other person vulnerable.

You are probably thinking that all these make sense, but you may also know maybe even from personal experience that when you are arguing you won’t remember any of these. It may take several discussions and biting your tongue more than once to stop yourself from saying something you really don’t want to, but you don’t have to do this alone. You can speak to that someone you often have arguments with and agree (before you get mad at each other) to argue wisely, to respect certain rules, and to even help each other recognize certain things you do in the middle of discussions. Be smarter than a discussion and agree to disagree.