Love

10 Ways To Stop An Argument In Less Than Five Minutes (That Are Totally Healthy!)

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woman pouting during an argument

We’re only human and are social creatures who thrive in the company of others. We converse, negotiate, orchestrate matters both large and small, and share our successes and failures.

Contact with other people is unavoidable and that’s a good thing.

However, even in the healthiest, most stable relationships, we won’t always see eye to eye with the people in our lives. We each have our own unique point of view, one that isn’t necessarily shared by others.

There are ways to stop an argument, when it feels like it isn't going to be healthy or helpful.

Disagreements, like points of view, are unique, although there are a few common sources. We may disagree about facts (and, unless we’re talking math or physical science, our opinions frequently masquerade as “fact”).

Disagreements are unavoidable. But they don't have to be hurtful or harm your bond. 

We may disagree about values — my dog is a family member while pups bred for sale will never be family members to the breeder. We’re not always clear (and rarely as clear as we think we are). We may misunderstand each other, either because we weren’t listening or because the speaker in some way misspoke.

Sometimes we just want to be right and sometimes we’re just hangry.

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Here are 10 ways to calm yourself, and your partner, and end the argument.

1. Breathe.

Stop arguing and really breathe, giving yourself time to calm down. Let your partner know that you need a moment for yourself (because unanticipated silence can be deafening).

2. Apologize in a meaningful way about the fact that your difference of opinion has degenerated into an argument.

State that you find arguing upsetting and acknowledge that your partner surely feels the same. Simply acknowledging this can begin to clear the air.

Set yourselves up for calmly beginning a conversation about the matter at hand. (You don’t need to apologize for the opinions you hold, nor should you expect your partner to apologize for their opinions. Everybody’s entitled.)

3. Tone down the drama.

You’ve got the choice of giving a once-in-a-lifetime operatic performance as the offended party or calmly discussing the matter at hand. Discussion is a far more effective approach.

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4. Reflect on what you’re arguing about: fact or fiction (aka opinion).

And remember, once you’ve added drama, you’re living in a fictional world.

5. Ask clarifying questions.

Examples of clarifying questions include “What happened?” “How do you see the situation?” and “What resolution would you like to reach?” Avoid “Why?” questions (such as, "Why did you do such a stupid thing?") because they tend to elicit emotional responses and have limited value.

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6. Listen both to what is being said and what is not being said.

By listening to what is being said, you have the opportunity to see the world from your partner’s point of view. It may or may not make sense to you, but it makes perfectly good sense to your partner. And their opinion is as valid as your own.

By observing what is not being said, you may discover that the source of the argument is something other than what you’re arguing about. You may be on the receiving end of an argument about socks you left on the floor when really your partner is feeling neglected or taken for granted.

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7. Agree to disagree.

Say you’re arguing about an event from the past. Keep in mind that all parties will remember the event from their own point of view. You may consider your telling of the tale to be what “truly happened” (i.e., a factual account) and it’s not — it’s your opinion of what happened.

Your partner will have their own version of what “truly happened." You can be happy or you can be right: choose happiness.

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8. Agree to put the topic off-limits.

You likely consider your position on any and every topic to be well-reasoned and imminently sensible (don’t we all?). You may believe that people who hold differing views are, at best, ill-informed.

In fact, they are as entitled to their opinion as you are to yours. Some things are just not worth arguing about, so, again, choose happiness.

9. Agree to compromise.

The world is built on compromise, a means of getting to a win-win resolution that is acceptable to both parties. You may not obtain your ultimate outcome and yet the outcome is one that both you and your partner can easily live with.

Compromise can be easy or you can be right: choose easy.

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10. Agree to give up your position.

This is the recommended course of action when you’re arguing over something foolish, something that holds no significance for you. Should the hallway be painted “Arctic White” or “Antarctic White?” 

If you don’t care and your partner does, your partner gets to make the color choice.

What happens when you and your partner cannot reach an agreement on an issue that is absolutely critical to you?

For example, your partner may find it acceptable to have an adult beverage (or more) and then drive while you do not. If your partner discounts your position and refuses to consider any alternative (such as designating a driver or taking a taxi home), you may be looking at a lifetime of arguments or the end of your relationship.

Starting and ending arguments is a two-way street. By leaving the drama aside, asking for clarification, seeking to fully understand your partner’s point of view, and reaching an agreement, you and your partner can have a relatively argument-free relationship.

According to Maya Angelou, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Skillfully resolving arguments with your partner will leave them feeling good about you, themselves, and your relationship. You'll also feel good about yourself.

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Susan Kulakowski, MBA/MS, is a writer who has been actively pursuing personal and professional development since 2017. Her focus is on making personal development courses available for children and their families. Visit The Relationship Mastery Institute for insights and opportunities to improve your communication, relationships, and love.

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