While many characterize arguing as an act which lacks compassion or consciousness, my view is that arguing is as natural as breathing.
Arguing is a way of clearing and cleansing the emotional and mental space that exists between two people. It’s a way of establishing boundaries, connecting to one’s voice and accepting that all emotions, even anger or frustration are part of the human experience rather than things to avoid. Arguing, when done right, can do wonders for bringing two people closer together.
It’s when arguments become fights that matters become increasingly dirty and ultimately destructive.
If you are like me then many of you have found the slope between arguing constructively and fighting to be incredibly slippery. I often would find my defenses triggered or feel a need to be “right” that I would lose track to what brought me before my partner to begin with.
I have a few rules that I put to work in my own relationship and that I teach my clients that helps us all to argue in a way which promotes healing and resolution.
What we say is often as important as when we say it. For example, I have learned that it’s not always advisable, if ever, to be at the door, hands on hip the moment my husband walks in after a long day’s work. It’s always a good idea to check in with your partner to make sure that now is a good time to talk. This establishes that even when we have something to discuss we are respectful of the other person and their time. It also provides a far more stable foundation for building our discussion if each of us is capable of providing the spaciousness for a conversation.
2. Word Choice Matters
Arguments turn into fights because of the words that we use. If I approach my husband saying “you made me feel_____ when you did_____” his immediate reaction is going to be a defensive one. If, however I approach him in a way that owns my feelings such as saying “I felt____when you did_____” it allows me to state how I feel while not triggering a defensive response. In order to responsibly argue we must be willing to foster mindfulness in the words we use.
This also means to avoid name-calling as tempting as it may be in highly emotional situations. There is nothing beneficial that will come from popping off at the mouth in order to project anger or make another hurt as we do.
3. Stay on Topic
A sure fire way to watch an argument turn into a fight is to bring up the past. When we go from staying on the topic and move into issues from our past we are moving away from finding solutions and creating an ego oriented need to be right. Instead stick to the issue at hand and if there are still unresolved issues from the past address them at another time when you can devote the conversation entirely to that topic.
4. Beware of Emotional Blackmail
We all have needs and a right to voice and request that those needs be met. Rather than demanding that your partner does something, or else all is done, try instead to ask them. When we make a request, rather than a demand, we acknowledge that this is not a power struggle but two people working together to help a relationship reach its fullest potential.
With these simple, but mindful, rules we can toss out the faulty assumption that arguing=poor communication. Instead we can begin to utilize communication, even when it’s about less than comfortable topics, to strengthen the bond we have with our partners and add stability to our foundation together.
Author: Laura Brown
Editor: Renée Picard