Arguments are part of everyone’s life. We argue all the time. Sometimes it is intentional, at other times it is unintentional and we may not even be aware when we are arguing. We argue with ourselves (“Ugh…it’s Monday morning…do I really need to get up and go to work? I could call in sick…no, I have to finish that work..but wait…will the building fall down if I don’t go in?) and we argue with others, the check-out person who keys in the wrong price on the bag of oranges, the salesperson who insists on pushing a product we have no interest in buying.
Some people even argue silently when they raise a fist at other drivers whom they feel cut them off or somehow angered them. So, while arguing is part of the human experience, it can really be one of the most horrible interactions we all engage in.
What are some ways we can avoid ugly arguments and lead to more peaceful productive lives? What can we learn about arguing so that we may be able to turn it off before it escalates into something more serious?
Why do people argue?
You name it and people can (and sometimes will) argue about it. Some people are argumentative by their nature–it seems that they got the “Argue” gene. Most children will go through an arguing period. Ask any parent and they will tell you about a phase when their son or daughter answered “no” to everything. Luckily, most children grow out of this particular phase after a short while. Adults, however, generally argue about money, sex, decisions, housework, and values.
Sometimes arguing is the very best thing you can do
Some arguments should not be avoided. Some situations provide perfectly valid reasons for arguing, even loud, strong arguing. Of course, if you are in a dangerous situation, a loud argument is obvious.
Most children are taught to use their “indoor” voices, and it may be difficult for many adults to raise their voices, after all, that conditioning, but there are events which demand it. It is obvious, but if you are in physical danger, do not even think of using your indoor voice and being polite–now is the time to exercise your vocal cords!
Realize that everyone argues
Yes, indeed, that is true but when couples argue, it hurts the most. If you argue with strangers, nobody really cares (they don’t even remember for long). If you argue with your friends, you generally come to an understanding or truce fairly quickly.
But when you argue with your boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, you may reach an understanding early, but if you do not, that is where the argument and what follows are ugly.
How best to avoid ugly arguments? Let’s see.
Do not raise your voice or worse yet, scream
Sometimes it is not what you say, but how you say it. The volume of your voice can connote anger, even if you are not intentionally arguing. This is especially true in some cultures. Nobody likes to be screamed at, and screaming at a partner in an argument is like adding fuel to a fire.
Just do not do it, and with any luck, your argument will quickly de-escalate into a conversation where hopefully both people will keep their cool and the volume down. Katie Ziskind, a therapist, offers this advice when she addresses fights which turn into screaming matches, “To keep this from happening, it can help to lower your voices — and possibly even talk in a whisper. It may feel strange, but whispering can keep your tempers under control.”
Do not bite the bait
One tactic some people use in arguing is to completely shut down and not respond to a partner. In some cases, this may end the bickering there and then. Do not be goaded or teased into quarreling with your partner. Some people actually enjoy arguing.
Do not give that person the satisfaction of having “got” you to engaging in arguing.
Of course, sometimes by not bickering with an argumentative partner, that partner may get even angrier. It is best to leave such situations. However, there is some research which found that people who talked through arguments were ten times more likely to be happy with their relationships.
Physical abuse means just get out
It may start with a glass thrown across the room or erratic driving meant to scare you. These types of situations can and will escalate. Three words: just get out.
Do not consider staying with someone who physically abuses you when arguing.
This is beyond ugly. This can be life-threatening. Leave. Check this out for more information.
Good communication is the key in any relationship, and being able to listen to your partner in all situations is an important component in a successful relationship. One important point: listening is not just hearing. The hearing is the physical process where sound waves enter your ear and are neurally transmitted to your brain. Listening is comprehending and interpreting those soundwaves; thinking about what they mean.
Good communication is essential
Think about your communicative style. Do you tend to talk over your partner when you are arguing? Are you dismissive? When your partner is upset don’t talk over them. This is not respectful and in itself will probably escalate the quarreling. Likewise, do not be dismissive. Do not call names. These communicative styles are not going to lead to good communication.
Healing is important
It is important to remember to take care of yourself and your relationship after an argument. Generally speaking, both partners should apologize.
When emotions run high, you should be sure to treat yourself well after the dust has settled.
Lose yourself in a book or go on a Netflix binge. Go out with friends. Hopefully, both you and your partner have learned from the experience, and that will serve well in preventing any future quarrels.