The sad part about arguing is hurting the people we care about. All of us have had times when we look back and think ‘how could I have handled that better?’ Sometimes things are very difficult to reverse once we say something in a heated moment. Here are three tips to remember when having an argument.
1) diffuse the situation quickly. Sometimes we think we need to walk away, and come back to the argument later. But, if it’s at all possible, diffuse now instead of walking away. Otherwise people’s imaginations run wild. Diffusing now allows you to move past the situation now. Otherwise, the hurt person starts thinking of all the other ways they are angry with you. Here’s a common situation: A couple is walking down a street and one sees their partner looking at someone else a little too long and they get offended. What of course happens in this situation is that they don’t speak up. So, they go through the whole day being irritable. They think ‘how could they do that in front of me?’. They feel jealous and hurt. Their partner senses them being cold and they ask them ‘what’s wrong?’ In their state of fear, the hurt person says, ‘nothing is wrong’. Their partner of course feels that they are cold and they feel shut out. So what do they do? They get cold and they shut down too. So now both of them are going through the day shut down, not talking about it. At the end of the day, the hurt person is so angry at not having voiced it, they start talking about it.
2) Here’s the second mistake: the urge to pile on. Instead of focusing on the one issue at hand, i.e. that person looking a little too long than you were comfortable with, you bring up other things the person did ‘you know a few weeks ago when you stopped to talk to that person for 20 minutes….’ Now you pile everything on to legitimized your argument. True credibility doesn’t come from piling other things on, It comes from sticking to the one thing that bothered you and exploring that.
3) The third mistake. The nastiest. In that angered, frightful state, when you’re hurt and feeling pain, your instinct is to inflict pain. You don’t want to give in. Now you go into cut mode. Now instead of just arguing that you are right, you want to hurt your partner. In our example, the hurt person says ‘oh you don’t think I can do that to you? You don’t think that I can look at people too? Just the other day someone hit on me’ and you can tell a story that’s kind of nasty to tell because you want to feel important again. What’s the reason we want to hurt someone? Because we want to see if it affects them so we will feel important again. It’s a twisted way of thinking but it happens a lot. The problem is when you cut someone it becomes hard to reverse. Resist the urge to hurt the other person. Deal with the issue at hand.
Diffuse quickly, resist the urge to pile on, and third, resist the urge to be cutting with your words. Its not noble once you’ve hurt someone, to feel ‘oh my god, I feel bad now’. Here’s what is brave and noble: at the point when you’re hurting, at the point when you’re frightened, go and deal with it right then, it’s the hardest moment to do it, but it’s the bravest thing to do. It’s so important to relationships. Relationships are killed everyday or otherwise irreversibly damaged which could otherwise be beautiful connections.
By Matthew Hussey