When it comes to relationships, arguing is inevitable. Having a disagreement or a dispute with your partner (or someone else), does not mean there is something wrong with the relationship. However, there could be an issue with how you argue. Think about the last time you had an argument with someone. What was the argument like? What reactions came up for you? And what are some changes you would make about it?
The thing is, when we argue, the majority of the time we are trying to get the other person to understand our side. Wanting someone to understand us is not a negative thing because we want to feel heard and that our voice matters. When we do not feel our partner is listening to us, this could cause us to raise our voices, say things we do not mean, or ignore them entirely. These are examples of defensive strategies to protect ourselves in a conflict, but these tactics do not benefit us in the long run. Learning how to argue effectively with healthier approaches can support you and your partner on how to understand each other and be heard.
Stop and Think
Though it may be difficult, it is important to stop and think carefully about what you are upset about. Sometimes our emotions can take over, resulting in us struggling to stay focus on what made us upset, why we are unhappy and what is our desired outcome. We can get caught in a whirlwind of feelings where it is possible what we are angry about can get blurry and create a “And you do this! And that! And that!” effect. A conflict about laundry can jump to another topic then another one, making it less feasible to solve the original problem. So, taking the time to think is crucial.
Expressing Your Thoughts
Voicing how you feel is one of the main points of an argument, but how you express yourself is vital. The most notable methods of expressing yourself is through the use of, “I,” statements. By using, “I,” statements, it can help an individual express their thoughts and feelings effectively, while limiting the risk of sounding offensive or attacking someone. “I feel sad when you say that,” or, “I feel anxious when you do this.” are both examples of, “I,” statements. They aid individuals in expressing how they feel and give respect to those emotions. The use of these statements is to give each person an understanding of what their partner is feeling.
Additionally, the use of yelling, swearing or name-calling is not a way of expressing yourself, it is a way of hurting your partner, distancing yourself away from the problem itself and attacking your partner’s character.
Know When to Walk Away
As I stated previously, our emotions can get the best of us in an argument, so it is useful for both parties to know when to take a time-out. Discuss with your partner on whether to take a 15 minute or more break to calm down then come back when ready. By communicating with your partner that you need a break it is indicating you want to listen to them and come to a compromise, but under a cool head. You are not shutting each other down or ignoring the problem, instead you are stopping to think. Communication is a process and develops over time. It takes effort to show your partner that you are attending to them and their needs.
Again, arguing should not be seen as a harmful thing in relationships, but recognizing how you argue can be. If you would like to learn more about how to communicate with your partner about how to argue effectively, give us a call! Our therapists at Optimum Joy would support you in how to communicate as a team!
Written by therapist Bria McCalpin
Learn more about Pete by reading his blog posts
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