Last week, I covered the real reasons that people argue and some of the things that people tend to do during arguments. As I said, arguments are going to happen. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. While they are indicative of our difficulty in simply accepting another person’s right to have a differing point of view (without the need to project our beliefs on them), arguments are also indicative of the beauty of the human spirit to fight for that in which in believes.
The key, is to learn how to argue effectively. One of THE MOST important things to remember when arguing with your partner is that, at best, you have 50% control over the outcome. But you have 100% control over how YOU react. More than anything else, I want my partner to know that I love her, even when we don’t agree.
Especially when we don’t agree.
So I tell her. Be it as soon as you realize that you are about to enter a discussion in which you do not see eye to eye or in the middle of a conversation that has gone off track, stop and tell your partner that you love them. DO NOT SAY ANYTHING ELSE. Let the words hang in the air and do not expect the sentiment to be expressed in return. Focus on what you can control in the situation; her (or his) response is not a part of that.
Something else to do as you’re saying this is to sit within arm’s reach of your partner, and touch them. Hold their hand. Rest yours on their lap. Hug them. Anything that creates a physical closeness between the two of you to help compensate for the emotional gap. If one, or both, of you are opposed to being intimate during an argument, sit close enough so that it is still an option.
One thing that I’ve spent a lot of time laughing about is how couples try to “understand” why the other feels they way feel. Realizing that I may be inviting angry responses about how insensitive I am, I’m going to say that this is one of the most ridiculous notions that I have ever heard. Forget about the differences in how men and women think. Focus more on the life aspect of how we all think. Our emotions are generated by a set of core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. Those core beliefs are built over a life time of every single, individual experience to which we are all exposed.
The only way to really understand why a person believes or feels they way they do, is to have shared every single experience with the other person, without having had any of your own. Instead of spending all of your time in trying to understand why your partner feels a certain way, spend more time in trying to understand exactly what it is that your partner is feeling.
Just because he or she is angry and yelling does not have to mean that they are angry at you. It could mean that they are angry at their boss that dumped a lot of work on them for the weekend. It could mean that they are mad at themselves about any number of things. The only thing you know for sure, until you ask what they are really feeling, is that you are the recipient of their anger – justified or not.
As a word of caution, don’t assume that you are not the reason for their anger. Simply, take the time to ask, in an active and polite voice, to explain everything that is on their mind. Don’t interrupt. If you must, place your hand over your mouth until they are finished. Then summarize what you heard back to them.
By “active” voice, I mean that you should be clear and direct in what you are saying. “I feel (blank)”. There is no benefit to holding things in. This is especially important once you realize that you will not share the same point of view. It is far better to say, “I understand that you feel this way. You are entitled to how you feel and I appreciate that you shared this with me. This is how I feel, and that is okay.”
Taking a cool off period can help keep emotions in check.
One other tactic that I am a huge fan of. is time outs. I am a very passionate person, and there are times where that passion spills over during an argument and the volume of my voice starts wanting to increase. Yelling, though it may feel good on occasion and may even be necessary, should never be directed at your partner. It is disrespectful. To avoid this, you have to be aware of your own warning signs, just as I do. Once you feel things welling up inside to where you feel that you have to yell in order to be heard, stop the conversation. Take 15 minutes, 30 minutes, a day – whatever it is that you need to regain control of the emotional reaction. Then come back and discuss things in a respectful manner.
Again, people argue and fight because of the human spirit to fight for that in which it believes. You will never be able to make another person change their mind and you will never be able to truly understand everything that contributes to what a person feels. Emotions are generated from a life time of experiences that all determine what one believes about themselves and the world around them. Respect the beauty of the fact that you have someone in front of you who is willing to make themselves so vulnerable by expressing their inner most thoughts.