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Healthy Relationships: How To Keep Arguments Constructive

Everyone on earth is prone to butting heads on occasion, whether that be with a friend, colleague, loved one or just a stranger on the street. Most of us have had plenty of altercations that we regret now and would love to be able to keep things healthy and constructive going forward. We spoke to several leading experts in this field in the hope of providing useful insights that will help ensure all arguments you have are dealt with in a much more helpful manner moving forward.

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#1 Keep Empathy In Mind

For couples, it is very important to keep in mind what they share together: the same values and life goals. This can be easily forgotten when partners are in conflict, hence empathy between them is significantly lowered. If they succeed in being aware of why they are together even when they have different perspectives on certain issues, it could bring empathy back into the relationship and change the quality of the discussion significantly.

Contributor: Vladimir Musicki, PhD from vladimir musicki

#2 Core Beliefs

Examine the core beliefs behind the arguments. Usually, when we talk about something, we don't communicate deep core belief structure that colours our everyday communication. It is important to do so—because the other person might have a glimpse of how we see the world and why we think and feel the way we think and feel.

Contributor: Vladimir Musicki, PhD from vladimir musicki

#3 Acknowledge Your Differences

Men and women are more than anatomically different, we’re wired differently and for viable reasons if we go back to our origins. It is important to realize and accept that we react differently, often tears vs tempers. Passive vs aggressive. Protective vs territorial.

A woman may need to temper her emotional response to communicate understandably, while a man may need to broaden linear thinking to encompass emotional reactivity. We need to acknowledge and respect our differences and the advantages of both.

Realize you’re different people, that’s half the allure and advantage that keeps life interesting, opens us to possibilities, different points of view.

Contributor: Alex Delon, Author, Advocate & Survivor from alex delon

#4 Always Calm Yourself

Monitor your mouth: if you’re hot and angry, take a walk, a break, bite your tongue before you say something you’ll want to take back by the time you slip beneath the covers. Formulate a deliberate response and don’t assume your partner had an evil intent.

Keep a box in your memory that has an auto erase function. Chuck conflicts in it so they don’t play on repeat every time there is a confrontation. Keep to the topic at hand.

Contributor: Alex Delon, Author, Advocate & Survivor from alex delon

#5 “You Statements”

By avoiding “You statements” you can transform your communication. Starting a conversation with a “You Statement” signals an attack that invite defensiveness. A “You statement” focuses on what someone is doing to you. When it becomes a pattern your communication comes out like criticism. It lacks accountability. It also repels others because the focus is always about them and that’s not healthy.

Instead use an “I statement” that focuses on how you feel and what you need. Name the specific behavior that bothers you. It’s much harder to react when someone describes the behavior without embellishing it. It also makes it easier to hear their concerns because it’s not an attack. It’s just a fact.

Contributor: Michelle Farris from counseling recovery

#6 Keep Your Voices Low

Couples can you keep an argument healthy by keeping their voices low. If one person starts to yell, it’s a red flag. At this time, both people need to take some space and cool off. If you find yourself starting sentences with the word you, that means a protective part has come up and that you’re triggered. When sentences start with you, that is the time to take a break and step aside. Try to make, I feel or I heard, statements, which give positive feedback and allow you to take ownership for your feelings.

Contributor: Kate Ziskind from Wisdom Within Ct

#7 Always Apologise

Remember, Everyone fights, but it’s all about how you come back calmly and respectfully afterwards. Even if you don’t think you did anything wrong, always apologize. Apologizing doesn’t mean that only you are at fault, but it means that you’re acknowledging your part. It shows that you respect the other person and acknowledge that you had an impact on their feelings.

Contributor: Kate Ziskind from Wisdom Within Ct

#8 Conflicting Interests

Take turns concisely sharing what was thought, believed, wanted, and expected. Also consider what is needed and wanted now that these interests have been challenged. So often, our arguments arise out of fear that things are no longer safe because they are occurring differently from what was expected. Then, our brains find a memory of a situation that seems similar, and it will typically choose one that didn't go well.

We'll start trying to protect ourselves from the same outcome, despite the different time, place, and circumstances. Our brains can play tricks on us at these times, which is why it's crucial to have simple structures to frame the arguments and keep us focused, yet authentic.

Contributor: Nance L. Schick from nschick law

#9 Always Realise Your Contribution

When I am working with couples in therapy, I encourage them to bring in their arguments (conflicts, issues, etc), and work on them in ways that allow then to become more conscious of, and own, their part in each conflict. I encourage them not only to account for how it is that they contributed to the problem at hand but also for their contribution to ways in which it might be resolved. When people argue in ways that merely engage the blame game what they often have a hard time seeing and feeling is that along with the blame they are giving their partner, they are also giving up the power to do anything about it--to fix it. If they truly believe that they have no part in it, there's nothing we can do about it.

‎Accounting for one's own part in the argument is a very good way to prevent arguments from becoming too destructive. It also is a very good way to build trust that we--as a couple--can deepen our trust and intimacy with each other, as then come to accept each other as we really are (with differences of opinion, taste, etc.).

Contributor: Mark Borg Jr, PhD from psychology today

#11 Enforcing Opinion

Don’t enforce your opinion. Your partner is entitled to have a different view, and just because you see the matter differently it doesn’t mean you’re right. Keep discussing in an educated manner until you can call it a draw.

Ask your partner how they’d approach or what they think on the matter. You’ll show them you care and will promote a positive evolvement of the argument instead of turning it into a fight.

Contributor: Sonya Schwartz from her aspiration

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Written by James Metcalfe

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