6 Steps To Having Arguments That Build, Not DESTROY, Your Relationship

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The 6 Steps To Arguments That Build Relationships
Love, Family

The success of an argument is not in how it ends, but how it begins.

All families will get into arguments at some point, if not regularly. You are a diverse group of people with different needs and desires all trying to occupy the same space amicably. It is never going to be perfect.

So what can you do to ensure that your arguments with your kids or your spouse are aimed at building the relationship and don’t disintegrate into name-calling, shame, and blame?

Here is a 6-step process based on the FBI’s Hostage Negotiation Procedure. I figure that if it works for the hardcore criminals it’ll most likely work on your lot too! This is how you have a better relationship when the fighting gets too much:

Step 1: Breathe

I added this step to the FBI routine, as I feel that one of the biggest problems with arguments is that everyone engaged is already in a stressed state and therefore in a state of fight or flight.

In this mode, the sympathetic nervous system is at play and all the blood that would normally be in the front part of your brain (used for logic, rationality, and problem solving) has been restricted and is now in your hind-brain (used for fighting, fleeing, and automatic reactions).

Nobody is going to have a constructive argument in that mode.

So breathe. Make sure that your out-breath is twice as long as your in-breath in order to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). The success of an argument is not in how it ends, but in how it begins, so ensure that you begin in the right frame of mind.

Step 2: Active Listening

What we tend to do in an argument is to jump ahead and try to influence the other person before we’ve even heard their point of view. And if we do listen, it is usually with half an ear while we’re really inside our heads, figuring out our counter-argument.

Slow down and listen. Really listen. Show that you are listening by saying, "Yes… uh huh… ok… " Don’t interrupt. Ask open-ended questions to clarify what they are saying and to get more information on how they are thinking and feeling.

Step 3: Empathy

This step is about showing that you've really listened and understood where they're coming from. Using your own words, reflect what you heard back to them. Be genuine.

If you really know how they feel from personal experience, you can let them know. If you don't understand, don't pretend you do. Ask more questions and listen more intently.

Step 4: Rapport

Rapport is about creating trust between you by making sure that they know that you feel what they feel and that they can trust you to have their best interests at heart. It is about stepping into their shoes and accepting that they are a different person with a different point of view that to them is just as valid as yours.

The easiest way to create rapport is through mirroring. You can mirror what they say by repeating elements of what they said or by paraphrasing what they said so that they know that you understood it properly.

You can also mirror their body language. For example, if they have their arms crossed, you can cross yours, or if they have one leg crossed over the other, do the same as if you are a mirror of them.

When we are in natural rapport with someone, we automatically mirror them and their movements. Look out for this next time you are having a deep conversation with a friend.

When we mirror someone, they feel that we are on the same page. Then, once you see that they are changing their position when you do, they are then in natural rapport and you can literally change their state of mind by slowly relaxing your body posture and deepening your breathing and they will follow suite.

Step 5: Influence

Only now do you even think about influencing their behavior or point of view. When it comes to influence, the goal is to find a win-win solution. Now that you've really listened to what they're saying and know what it is that they want, you can start putting across your point of view.

Remember that that's all it is  — a point of view. Neither of you is right or wrong, so avoid getting into the blame trap. Always start your sentences with "I".

Say "I feel hurt when you don’t pack the dishwasher because it feels to me like you are disrespecting me." Do not say "You just disrespect me all the time, you don’t care how about helping out around the house."

Nobody can dispute what you feel. In order to find the win-win situation, you need to understand what is most important to the other person and what is important to you and then find the middle ground.

Is there a way that you can both get what you want? Can you brainstorm it or think outside the box to come up with a new idea? You need to be prepared to compromise at times rather than just focusing on being right.

Finding a win-win solution shows respect for the relationship, being right just shows respect for your own ego. It may be satisfying for a moment, but ultimately will destroy your relationship. What is your goal?

Step 6: Behavioral Change

Now that everyone is calm, thinking creatively, and coming up with solutions rather than more problems, you can put some of your ideas into practice. Most couples argue about the same things over and over again in their relationships and nothing changes.

If you follow this simple procedure you can build your relationship and actually implement lasting change that works for both of you. If you’re struggling to come up with solutions, don’t panic.

There is nothing wrong with telling your partner or child that you need to think about it for a day (or more). If everyone feels heard and understood then you can allow some reflection time for both of you to come up with ideas for going forward.

So before you start throwing fists in your family, stop, breathe, listen, get into the other person’s shoes, and come up with solutions that keep everyone growing and learning and loving.

Arguing is an inevitable part of life. Use it to build your relationships instead of destroying them.

If you feel that you're in a constant battle with your kids, sign up for Mia Von Scha's monthly newsletter where she shares tips on how to improve your relationship with your children.