Unfortunately, arguments are a foregone conclusion in any relationship, but when done correctly they are a healthy way to clear the air about lingering issues and move forward to build a stronger relationship. A good argument is fair, does not diminish either parties’ side of the issue, and does not end with more hurt feelings — and more issues to be worked out. Follow these tips to have more constructive and less hurtful arguments with your partner, ones that will actually solve things and make them better rather than just add to the dispute.
- Listen without interrupting. Sounds pretty obvious, but think hard on whether you personally practice it. Listening without interruption lets your partner air their side of the story and let’s them know you care about their opinions and want to learn more about what they have to say. It also forces you to actually put aside your reasons, cool any emotions, and think about what they are saying. Oftentimes, just a little listening shores up any holes in an argument and can change perspectives on the other side’s reasons and feelings. Demand the same from your partner, otherwise, it just won’t work.
- Only argue about constructive topics. Too often relationships are sidetracked by the small things, like taking out the trash, that add up into huge, boiling over disputes that reveal other feelings. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Have a schedule for chores and hold each other accountable for it. If you see small tasks or expectations becoming an issue, head it off and work together to create a fair and equitable solution. Save your arguments for topics that will further your relationship, making it stronger or pointing out things you need to work on — keep it big picture.
- Never attack each other on a personal level. A bruised ego is the quickest way to more heartache, and substantial damage to a relationship. Respect is the key component to a productive argument, and must be used at all times to minimize hurt feelings. Stay focused on the issue at hand, and absolutely no name calling whatsoever, ever. Learn what pushes each others’ buttons, and stay away from that. If your partner is conscious about public disputes, suck it up and hold off until you both can have a civil conversation alone, behind closed doors. Respect each other’s boundaries.
- Think before you speak. It is all too easy when emotions run high to slip up and say something unintended but extremely hurtful. Think hard before you speak. Do not think out loud. Try not to waste words and speak in a direct, concise manner, one that displays obvious thought. The best arguments are those that are rational and logical, and more often than not, are not the products of improvised thinking.
- Establish rules to arguing. Like a good debate, decide ahead of time on a procedure for arguing and stick to it. It sounds kind of silly, but will promote a civil conversation rather than an emotional brawl. One person speaks at time, decide on how many times each person can speak, and let each party reserve the right to have a cool-off time when emotions get too high; it’s in those times that hurtful things are said, people don’t think clearly, and productivity hits rock bottom.
- Being gracious winners and understanding losers. In arguments, there are sometimes going to be winners and losers because compromise is not possible 100% of the time. Don’t gloat and do not hang it over your partner’s head if you win, and do not resent your significant other if you lose. You both need to recognize that you’re both just trying to do what’s best for each other out of the love you have for one another. Arguments are evil necessities, but when done right, will make your relationship stronger. If they do, there are no losers here.