Is there a right way to argue?

Recently, my partner and I got into an argument that in the grand scheme of things was a rather inconsequential topic to even be arguing about. I basically assumed he was thinking one thing and got mad at him, when in reality he wasn’t thinking that at all. We rarely argue, but when it happens, it tends to balloon rather quickly.  After we made up, we talked about why we argue and he communicated his goal for what he would do the next time should it happen, which got me wondering, is there a right way to argue?

His theory (which he got from a podcast) is that when you argue with someone, you should take a step back and try to understand the other person’s point of view and see it from their angle. It doesn’t mean you necessarily have to agree with them, but rather, just try to see where they’re coming from, which may help to lessen the intensity of the argument.

When you argue and when both people want to be right, there’s no way that disagreement is going to stop any time soon. Egos get in the way, and when the anger boils over, all you see is your point of view, and all you hear is what you want to hear and tune out the other person.  Truthfully, the bigger person is the person who can take a step back and actively listen and understand what the underlying issue. It’s hard to be the bigger person in an argument because you don’t want to look weak if you back down. But it’s actually the flip side, the stronger person, IS the one who can take a step back and try to diffuse the situation in a calm and helpful way.

I’m lucky to have a partner who is willing to look at our relationship and our ways of communicating and offer to make improvements. It also encourages me to do the same. I tend to shut down in arguments and mentally and sometimes physically leave the situation to the detriment of the relationship. It’s a bad habit I’ve continually nurtured for over 20 years, so it’s a difficult habit to break, but one that I’m actively trying to improve upon.

It’s so easy in arguments to blame one another and just keep that line of thinking going – even when you end up “making up” sometimes those hard feelings still linger and it can cause more underlying issues.

So what is the right way to argue? Here’s my take:

  • It’s OK to state your thoughts in a respectful and helpful way (no yelling, no condescension, no attitude)
  • It’s not OK to convince or force them to agree with you (everyone has a right to their own opinion)
  • It’s OK if the other person doesn’t agree with you, but it IS important that he/she respects your thoughts and opinions
  • If the argument starts to get heated, take a step back and try to understand where that person is coming from (everyone has baggage and a past, and that carries major influence)
  • It’s OK to be the bigger person and step back and resolve what’s happening. If that means letting the other person feel that they’ve “won” then so be it, in the grand scheme of things, does it matter whether you’re right or not?
  • When you do resolve the argument, you truly have to forgive and move on. It doesn’t mean you necessarily may forget, but to forgive means that you don’t harbour any ill will to the other person afterwards. This means, that if you do get in another argument, you don’t bring up past arguments, because if you do, you honestly haven’t forgave

Are these helpful points? Do you think there are other things to consider?

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