I am a firm believer that a bit of healthy arguing here and there can do wonders for any relationship. I view it as a way of cleansing myself and getting rid of all the suppressed feelings I tend to keep bottled up inside. It’s a great way to reboot and start over. The key is to argue effectively: Get your message out there, discuss, reach a compromise or agree to disagree and move on to making up (which is always the best part of any argument, right?).
Arguing effectively is not rocket science and by applying some simple yet necessary ground rules, you are good to go. Most of the rules are common sense anyway, but we often get caught up in the heat of the moment and tend to forget our good manners in the process. So, it’s always good to visualize these rules internally before getting into an argument.
The goal of effective arguing is to get your relationship to the next level by talking things (as unpleasant as they may be) over with your partner and addressing issues before they turn into something bigger. By establishing some ground rules (every couple can establish their own set of rules) you’ll ensure that the argument remains civil. The last thing you want, is for an argument to turn into a vile name-calling fight, which in my opinion is usually proof of poor (i.e. childish and immature) communication skills.
My husband and I apply (or at least try as best as we can) the following 9 rules whenever we get into an argument. Mind you, with our Italian genes you can be sure that when we argue, sparks are sure to fly most of the time (sometimes our apartment can turn into world war 3) but we always, always maintain a respectful tone. And the more heated the argument, the better the making up later on. So, don’t be afraid of getting into a heated or even unpleasant argument. It can be necessary to really get everything out of your system. Once it’s out, it’s out and you move on to the next level.
Rule 1: Give each other the necessary space to voice your concerns
Every argument should ideally start like a business meeting: Each partner gets his space to voice their concern one by one and then the discussion can start. This can be a bit difficult as depending on the scenario, you might want to jump right in and respond to any issues raised by your partner.
Resist the urge to interrupt and listen attentively to what your partner has to say. You’ll have your turn once he is done (or vice versa, depending on who initiated the conversation). Be sure to really listen to what your partner is saying. Most of the time we’re not really listening because we are impatiently waiting for the moment when we can interrupt and take over. By doing so, we only get half of what our partner is trying to communicate to us.
The whole point of effective arguing is to put all the issues on the table and then to address each issue one by one. Make an effort to listen and to try to see things from your partner’s perspective. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself how you would feel or react if the roles were inverted.
Rule 2: Communicate directly
Be clear and direct. No beating around the bush or dropping hints. Your partner is not a mind reader and despite what you might wish, he will never be able to know what goes on in that pretty little head of yours if you don’t tell him.
You’re only going to say it once so, take your time in delivering a concise and honest message he can work with. By doing so you’ll avoid misunderstandings and save time (remember: you want to get to the part where you kiss and make up as soon as possible).
Rule 3: Maintain a calm voice
Raising your voice from the beginning and throwing a tantrum will only cause your partner to get defensive and this will cost you both so much energy. If you are like me and tend to have a quick temper take some deep breaths beforehand and give it all you have to maintain a calm facade and voice. Fake it until you make it.
You can be boiling with anger on the inside all you want, just don’t let it show. Keeping your calm will add meaning to what you have to say and will make it easier for your partner to follow and understand you.
Being the passionate person that I am, I am known for throwing a tantrum every once in a while. Looking back, I admit that they are completely useless in that they drain me of energy and get me absolutely nowhere when it comes to the delivery of my message to my partner. I’m working on it but I’ll say that maintaining my calm is definitely the hardest rule for me to apply.
Rule 4: Don’t repeat yourself
This is especially important for us women to keep in mind: He heard you loud and clear the first time. The more you repeat yourself, the more he’ll shut down internally and won’t register another word you say, which will only prompt you to repeat the same thing again and again to make sure he gets it. Before you know it, you’re in that vicious cycle where he’s not listening and you’re going on and on about the same thing like a broken record. So, resist the urge to demean him (because that’s essentially what you are doing when you repeat yourself) and focus on finding a compromise instead.
Rule 5: Respect each other
This is key. No matter how mad or disappointed you are, always remain respectful throughout the conversation. Under no circumstances should you insult your partner or call him names. This will make you look childish and weak – as if you are out of arguments and are just lashing out. Always bear in mind that words can be really hurtful and once you’ve crossed the line you can’t just simply take them back. The damage is done and you’ll be left with an even bigger mess than before you even started arguing.
Rule 6: Don’t be afraid of confrontation
Arguing with your partner is all about trusting each other enough to say the things, which really bother us. We can’t do this if we are afraid of confrontation. So, don’t avoid discussions just because they are uncomfortable. Only by openly addressing your issues will you be able to overcome them as a couple. Running away from your problems will not make them disappear.
Rule 7: What are you really arguing about?
Make sure to take a minute during the argument to assess whether the argument is taking you anywhere constructive or if you are just arguing for the sake of arguing. If the latter is the case maybe it’s time to simply agree to disagree and let it go – or take it up some other time. It depends on the nature of the argument, of course.
What really got under your skin today might seem so irrelevant tomorrow. Is it really worth wasting your time arguing about something you know deep down is not really an issue after all? Be honest with yourself: Are you just picking a fight with your partner because you feel stressed out over something somebody said or did at work (that has nothing to do with your partner)? Or because you simply are in a bad mood? Evaluate the situation and if you come to the conclusion that the issue is not really worth arguing about then own it and have the courage to let it go and call it a day. Don’t act all proud and keep going just because you don’t want to be the first one to back down.
Rule 8: Take a time out
Remember, you don’t have to drag out an argument for hours. You can always choose to interrupt the discussion and take it up again later if you feel the need to clear your head in between.
Especially if the conversation is getting too heated and you feel like screaming, taking a time out is an excellent idea. Remove yourself from the situation by leaving the room or even by leaving the building to catch some fresh air. This will help to calm your nerves.
However, keep in mind that you aren’t alone in an argument. Respect your partner enough to tell him that you’ll be stepping out for a while because you feel like you are getting too agitated. Don’t simply storm out of the room leaving your partner standing there like a fool. And don’t apply this strategy simply to avoid confrontation when things get a bit unpleasant. That is not the goal here. Taking a time out should only be applied when you feel like you are losing your calm or when the conversation is going nowhere.
Once you have calmed down enough and gathered your thoughts, return to your partner and pick up the conversation where you left off. Don’t leave things unresolved between you.
Rule 9: Always make up after an argument
Don’t leave things weird between the two of you after an argument. Break the ice by hugging it out or simply laughing about it (if the situation permits, of course) and make nice again. Making up after an argument is just as important as talking things through. You should automatically relate arguing to making up afterwards. The two things go hand-in-hand. There should be no one thing without the other.
Happy arguing everyone 🙂