Arguing is like a science. In fact, there are ways to get really good at it. I know what it sounds like. And, no, I’m not talking about winning arguments…at least in the sense that you’re thinking of. But, if you implement these strategies it might be a win for your relationship.Atlanta Therapist - Arguing

Most couples struggle with communication. There’s lots of reasons for this. Men aren’t used to conflict with words the way women are (stereotypically.) So, they tend to shut down more. Women on the other hand, statistically use more words than men in a day. And, they are much more prone to accepting feelings and expressing them. Or course, this isn’t always the case, and sometimes things are the opposite, or anywhere in between.

With the struggle mentioned above, it can be difficult for both parties. Then, when you combine unhealthy conflict styles, you can quickly see an argument turning disastrous. I’ve seen the awful conflict in my Atlanta therapist office time and time again. Here’s a list of the don’ts in arguments. To help you out, I’ve also listed the do’s.

Don’t – Most of the time it’s not a good idea to allow yourself to get overly emotional. If you are feeling overly aggressive, angry, or even sad, you may need to take a time out. When we get to an overly emotional place, we struggle to really listen and take in what the other person is saying. Please don’t mistake what I’m saying. Emotions are fine. It’s okay to cry, or feel angry, or get irritated. When you get to the point that you feel like you will explode, you’ve probably gone too far. You might need to ask for a five minute break, or a two hour break.

Do – Allow yourself to feel and express your feelings in healthy ways. Work to label your feeling during the discussion. If you need to take a break from the conversation because the feelings are overwhelming, ask to do so. I always like to also set an expectation of when you can return to it so that your partner does not feel like you are shutting them down or avoiding the issue.

Don’t – Don’t become aggressive in word, tone, or action. Try to be mindful of how you sound and what you are doing with your body. If you are coming off as aggressive your partner may go into fight-or-flight response without even realizing it. They won’t be able to stay open and willing. So, if you notice you’re becoming aggressive, take a pause. Or, do the opposite of what appears aggressive. If you’re shouting, talk in a quiet voice. If you’re pounding your fists, place them calmly on your lap. If you’re pacing, sit down. You may even note what you notice to your spouse and tell them you’re adjusting. So you could say ‘I just noticed I’m yelling. I’m angry but I’m going to adjust my volume because I want to make sure you feel comfortable continuing the conversation, and I don’t think yelling is helpful right now.’

Don’t – Try not to Criticize, use harsh labels, or blame. I know it’s difficult, but when we Jude the thing our partner does, it puts them on the defensive. The easiest way to do this is to state facts and feelings. We get into dangerous grounds when we put judgments or thoughts with the facts. Here’s an example of the don’t. We’ll put the solution below.  Partner 1 says “I can’t believe it! You do this all the time. You’re so lazy. This is why we always argue. Again, you’re sitting on the couch when shit needs to get done.”

Do- State facts and feelings but avoided judgment, labels, and criticism. Here’s an example of the same scenario done well. Partner 1 says “You came home today and sat on the couch and the dishes weren’t done. I felt stressed because the house is messy and we have people coming over.” Not bad. Partner 1 still asserts himself, and avoids argument pitfalls.

Don’t – Don’t forget what your intent and goal are. It’s easy to get so angry that we just allow ourselves to say whatever we’re thinking. But, that’s often times not the most effective way to have conflict. Most people struggle with falling into unhelpful thinking patterns already, so when you put them in a heated argument they just spill all of those unhealthy thoughts out. This often times moves you away from your goal of getting closer, working together, avoiding a blowup, etc.

Do – Focus on what you want long-term. If your goal is to have a successful partnership, then how should you be communicating in this moment. Maybe you soften your tone so your partner can really listen. Maybe you actually speak up and share your feelings rather than shutting down since shutting down will result in a broken relationship in the long run. Maybe you choose to not bring up the past and focus on the present issue. Maybe you drop it all together. Focus on the end goal. How are you intending to sound? If you want to show you love someone but you’re shouting and yelling, are they going to perceive you as being loving in the moment?

The skills we’ve talked about are great ways to begin improving your arguments. No, they don’t help you win the tiff, but they may help you win at love. We know they’re not perfect. You will still disagree. That’s normal. The goal is not to get rid of arguments. The goal is to argue well. Hopefully, in disagreeing, you both grow. Hopefully, you become better. Hopefully disagreeing can be a healthy part of your relationship. To all of the arguers out there, be well!

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