How to argue the right way?
Before you can improve your contentious relationship, you must stop agitating the argument worse. Commit to practising a constructive way to respond to another’s anger. Also, try to identify your reactions that exacerbate the argument.
When your negative feelings take over, it is likely that you think: “I do not care if I hurt my partner and I say whatever pops to mind!” But, in order to curb the argument, you have to consider the consequences of the argument.
Think about your wishes for your relationship. How do you help your wishes come true?
If you want a better relationship, constructive dispute resolution is important. Invest in it and do not forget your objective, even in the midst of the most intense feelings of anger!
Recognize your own way of arguing
Reminisce the last argument you made worse. What did you do? What could you do differently next time? When your partner attacks you with words, take a deep breath or leave the room for a moment. It is not a disadvantage for you. Practice!
On the other hand, when your partner attacks you with words, stopping an argument requires courage, commitment, skills and will. Stopping the argument in the bud will result in a better outcome for everyone. It is not about silence, but about listening to what the other has to say, for example.
Recognize what makes you flare up
Anticipate the ways you respond when you get annoyed. Identify the things that get you annoyed. Remember “the argument” that flares up every now and then. The more aware you are of your “red rag to a bull”, the less power it has over you. Namely, every time you respond to toxic words with toxic words, you and your relationship lose something important. Do a mental exercise: Respond to irritation in a way that respects you and your partner.
Understand the feelings of the other
Understand why and in which thing your partner is disappointed. Is it difficult for you to listen to their feelings of disappointment? Is there a grain of truth in his/her words? Think about why you start to defend yourself when your partner tries to tell you how they feel. You can try what it feels like to say “Thank you for telling me – I will try to think of that feature in myself”.
Self-discipline is also needed at home
You are probably able to control yourself in the candy store. You probably also go to school or work even if you did not feel like it. All of this is self-control, self-discipline. Could you practice the same kind of self-discipline while talking to your partner?
When you control too strong impulses, the conversation goes much better.
By counter-attacking, you have already caved in to intense feelings. Although it is very difficult, try what happens when you focus on listening and say: I hear what you are saying. You can also repeat what your partner said. Thus, they get confirmation that you are listening.
Authors: Heli Vaaranen, Psychotherapist, the Family Federation of Finland
Reference: Fruzzetti, Alan E. (2006): High-Conflict couple. A dialectical Behavioral Therapy Guide to Finding peace, Intimacy and Validation. Raincoast. Canada.