Six Tips for Productive Arguing
Spice, as you all know, is the secret recipe to any good dish. A good amount of it brings out the flavor — the zing — that everyone wants to taste. Just like with food, a healthy and exciting relationship results from a good combination of variations. No matter how well a couple gets along, due to the differences in social and family backgrounds, conflicts will be present. Believe it or not, the differences, along with some amount of healthy fighting, can also bring couples closer to each other.
Some of the personality differences may not come out during the early stages of the relationship. More often than not, we filter out what we don’t want to see. But as we get comfortable and become more intimate, even the seemingly trivial things will become valid reasons for arguments that could lead to fights.
Fighting is a normal encounter in any relationship that surprisingly brings excitement. It also provides an opportunity for the couple to voice each other’s opposing points of view and hopefully arrive at a resolution. What’s important is how the conflict is managed. The way a couple manages the conflict determines if they are headed for divorce or not.
In his book “Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship”, Dr. Stan Tatkin says that couples should not repress their desire to argue because the human brain is wired for war. Instead of avoiding conflict and argument, couples must learn to engage in smart fights.
In school, we’re trained on how to apply certain skills, but not how to succeed in relationships nor how to manage conflicts. This is something we need to teach ourselves – and it’s more important than anything we ever learned in school.
When partners learn to “fight well’’ – that is, fighting without determining a loser – they become happier and more secure in each other’s company. When conflict or disagreement sets in, we often find ourselves clueless as to how we should handle the situation without having to hurt each other’s feelings. Here are some ways we can make sure both parties leave unscathed when conflicts arise:
1. Love your opponent
Your “opponent” here is your partner. You may want to argue with him but that doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly with him. While expressing your opinions (maybe with matching hand gestures and all), remain considerate of his feelings. Be wary of the tone and volume of your voice. This way, you’re more likely to achieve a friendly discussion instead of a heated argument.
2. Speak up, and then shut up
Don’t make the mistake of holding the grudge as long as you can until stress builds up and explodes like a gigantic deadly bubble. Speak up, but keep your arguments short and sweet. Condense your bottom-line point to a short sentence. When you notice that both you and your partner are only blabbering over old issues, stop – it’s time to wave that white flag of friendliness.
3. Maintain respect
Name calling or blaming should not have any place in the argument. Asking your partner, “What’s wrong with you?”, or speaking in a condescending manner, won’t help resolve your argument. Attacking your mate even in an indirect verbal manner definitely won’t help your relationship, since this type of discourse is disrespectful and arrogant.
4. Play while you fight
A good fight is actually within the couple’s play zone. You may be wrestling hard with your partner’s idea but when there’s the spirit of play, the argument is also a form of play that both engages you, allows you and your partner to have fun and fool around, and teaches you new ideas. A playful fight can even be a form of foreplay… remember Mr. and Mrs. Smith??
5. Argue with your partner in person
It is very important for a couple to read each other’s mind while fighting; try to understand what they’re feeling and see things from their perspective. The couple can only do this in relatively close proximity, when they can see each other’s eyes and (hopefully) read a thousand unspoken words from there. This is the same reason why “personal talks” are often discussed face to face, not over the phone or via emails and texts.
6. Bury the skeletons
Keep arguments short, direct, and within the issue. It’s not healthy to bring up the past, particularly the issues that have already been resolved. Only discuss the current issue that’s been bothering you. Digging up past hurts will not only emotionally overwhelm both of you but will also lead you away from what your are trying to resolve.
When you notice that both you and your partner are only blabbering over old issues, stop – it’s time to wave that white flag of friendliness.
Couples who learn how to manage conflicts grow more connected to each other. There will be differences and clashing ideas – these will be encountered several times through the course of the relationship. When couples create an environment where differences are respectfully expressed, understood, and accepted, then the bonds of trust and intimacy are strengthened. Some of these points may seem difficult in the heat of the moment, but just remember: Would you rather be right or happy?