As a Life Coach I see many people who feel ashamed at the way they over-react at the smallest things often regretting what they say in the heat of the moment. I see others who give a good impersonation of a “doormat” – the bad news is if you behave like a doormat don’t be surprised if people walk all over you. If you never stand up for yourself you’ll always feel scared of life.
While some people avoid arguing by becoming ultra passive and refusing to say what they feel. Others think that arguments provide an opportunity to insult the other person – often believing the only way to argue is to make sure you scream the loudest. There are also those that fall into a massive sulk the minute you disagree with whatever they say or do. All these behaviours harm a relationship – they make you feel bad about yourself and usually end up with both of you feeling hurt and rejected and you never really sort out the cause of the original disagreement.
Arguments are a part of life. You are not going to get to your deathbed without having an argument with someone, somewhere at some time. The good news is – there is such a thing as a healthy argument. Healthy arguing takes practice and can be learned like any skill and once you’ve cracked how to do it you’ll find your disagreements far more productive.
If you want to strengthen your relationship you need to learn how to disagree. Healthy arguing means you get to know each other better – after all how can you know what someone is like if you never find out what they think? Learning how to argue will help you communicate more clearly and you’ll end up feeling more respect for yourself and for others.
If you want to argue more successfully with family, friends, partners, your boss and your work colleagues then the following tips will help you.
Start by listening to what the other person has to say and make sure you acknowledge their point of view. You don’t have to agree with what they are saying but you do need to show you’ve got the message. For example “from your point of view I can see you might feel let down” or “I get the feeling you think I’m not being supportive” or “I know this is a full on time for our department and you’ve a lot to think about”. If you don’t actively show that you have listened the other person will assume you haven’t and will either walk away or withdraw because they will think you’re not taking them seriously. Alternatively, they may increase the intensity of their argument and the volume of their voice in an attempt to make you listen.
Think about what’s being said
It’s o.k. to ask for time to think about what’s being said – you don’t have to answer instantly and you can come back to the discussion later. Make sure you tell the other person you need time to think otherwise you could end up looking as if you’re the one avoiding the issue rather than simply needing some space and time to think about it! Make the point that you respect what they have to say and therefore you believe they deserve a proper answer and not a half-baked one.
So you’re always right then?
Does the other person have a point? If you think they do agree, if not state your reasons for disagreeing in as calm a way as possible. You may need more information before you can decide whether they do have a point or not and if this is the case don’t be afraid to ask for it. After all how you can you decide one way or the other if you don’t know what the other person is really talking about?
In the next post I’ll share another four suggestions to help you argue more effectively. You might also find my book helpful: No More Anger: Be Your Own Anger Management Coach