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How to Argue Effectively in Relationships

How to Argue Effectively in Relationships

How to Argue Effectively in Relationships

Learn How to Argue Effectively With Those Close to You

Advice Seeker :
Dear April Masini,

I hate arguing! Whenever I feel an argument coming on, I freeze up and try to avoid the situation. I feel that if you're really close to someone and really like them, you shouldn't want to argue with them. My boyfriend says I'm wrong and that it's actually the opposite; the closer you are to someone, the more you'll argue with them. He says I need to learn to be a better arguer and let my feelings out more. Why do people who love each other argue, and how can I learn to do it better?

Let's Just Play Nice


April Masini's Advice :

Dear Let's Just Play Nice,

Your boyfriend is right; it is very common for people who love each other to argue. In fact, the closer you are to someone, the more you will probably argue with them. This is normal! You just need to learn how you can argue with the best of them.

Arguments. What are they and why do we have them?

Arguments are when people disagree and make their disagreements vocal, written or express them in some way that involves engagement.

Arguments are a way of engagement. People argue because they want to connect. They want their opinion heard by the person they’re arguing with or by someone who will overhear them.

Who has them?

People argue with those close to them. This means people they are emotionally close with and/or just plain old physically close with. Neighbors argue with each other because of their physical proximity. Team mates argue with each other for the same reason. So do family members — whether it’s sibling rivalry or spouses arguing.

What they argue about?

People argue about common issues. For instance, neighbors argue about the land that they have in common — whether it’s a border of land, dogs pooping on each other’s lawns or the way the neighborhood as a whole, looks and is maintained. Couples fight over the same things — the things that they have in common like child rearing, money, where and how to live and sex. Among other things.

Why they stop arguing?

People stop arguing because the problem that they perceive between them is gone — either by circumstance or because one of them made a behavioral adjustment. People stop arguing because they are distracted by other problems or good news. People stop arguing because their own chemistry changes, and the anger that they had that may have been caused or exacerbated by stress, hunger or something else, was alleviated, and the argument doesn’t seem important or worth their energy any more.

Consider the differences in relationships when arguing. For instance:

Close friend — You have history on your side which means if you screw up in the argument, you have a greater margin of allowance for apologies and mistakes. When you argue with someone you don’t know as well, your margin for screw ups is narrower.

A close friend who has been a close friend for a long time is a valuable asset, and it’s important to see the forest as well as the trees. Remember that you don’t want to blow a close friendship over something petty or not that important or even being right. Sometimes it’s best to agree to disagree. That said, if you find that you suddenly have a cycle of agreeing to disagree that you never had before you either have a) an underlying problem that has not been addressed or b) you’re growing apart.

Try to maintain some empathy within the arguing.

Boyfriend — Define boyfriend. A boyfriend of 8-10 weeks is different than a boyfriend of 12-18 months. When arguing with a boyfriend of 8-10 weeks be aware of incompatibilities. This is the time to find out if he’s a keeper or not. If he argues violently, unfairly or if he brings baggage to the argument that is too intense for you, this is a great time to agree to part ways. If you’ve invested 12 - 18 months because you think he’s the one, then fighting is not just problem solving, it’s getting to know each other. How he fights and how the two of you fight together and how you adjust your fighting to make it more productive in expressing feelings and ironing out differences.

Colleague - Keep it on the up and up. Professionalism is the name of this game. Maintain your decorum while expressing your feelings, listening to your colleague, and working toward a solution to the discrepancy between what you think and want and what they think and want.

Boss — Acknowledge the difference in power, and be prepared to take a calculated risk — or play it safe. If you are unhappy in your job and prepared to quit, then your behavior is less important than if you need the job and don’t want to risk losing it by riling your boss. Above all, maintain your professional decorum, regardless, as a rule. Keep the problem clear in your head — don’t get clouded with office politics. Stay goal oriented.

Tips to Better Arguing

1. Listen. You can’t listen if you’re talking. Don’t just be silent when someone else is talking — take in what they’re saying. Active listening is giving the other person cues that you’re listening by nodding, murmuring, "Uh huh …, I see …" so that you acknowledge receipt of their talk.

2. Don’t interrupt. Let a person have their say even if you can’t stand it. Practice the discipline of not interrupting.

3. Repeat what the other person has said before you go on to your next point. For instance, say, "I hear your saying …" and then repeat what they said. This allows you to confirm what you heard, and if it is incorrect, this allows the other person to correct you so that there is less chance of misunderstanding.

4. Like a tennis game or a ping pong game, allow for back and forth. You take a turn, and then let the other person take a turn.

5. Learn to agree to disagree. If you are hell bent on convincing someone else of something, you may have a losing argument on your side. Focus on resolution, not winning.

6. Avoid violence. At the first show of violence, shut down the argument by taking a break or getting help. Violence is not arguing. Learn the difference.

Take a break from arguing with your loved one and go out on a date. Check out my book, Romantic Date Ideas!