How To Deal With People Who Think You're Arguing Every Time You Try To Express Yourself

Photo: savageultralight /
Two women debating a topic

Where’s the podium when you need one? I was the last born child in a family of five. With an older sister and brother, and my parents, I had four times as many chances to be valued and celebrated, but I had equally as many chances to be pushed away and marginalized.

The problem? Everyone, from a newborn baby to an adult, has certain core needs: warmth, closeness, and acceptance.

These are the building blocks of self-esteem which if ignored result in children lacking self-confidence. At the end of the day, what is disagreeing really about?

It’s a power struggle between those who have control and those wanting control. Wanting to be "right" carries a lot of energy. In a family, players are set, and their roles have been identified. Who has the power, who has control? This script will be played out daily.

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How to deal with people who interpret everything you say as an attack or argument

1. Recognize that your tone or style of conversing may be conveying more aggression than you realize

Consider these examples to gain some perspective on what might have been going on in your household as a child, that contributes to your disagreeing with those who call you argumentative.

  • When you were telling a story, did you feel like you were constantly getting interrupted?

  • Did you frequently feel as if no one was really listening in spite of their presence and your singular voice?
  • In the middle of a conflict did you have the sense that your feelings were being discounted?
  • Did people tend to “suggest” that your decisions might not be in your best interest, in passive-aggressive attempts to promote their own agenda?
  • Did you grow up with the drama of a special needs child; a sibling always siphoning off the attention by holding your guilt-ridden parents hostage?
  • Did the tantrums, acting out behaviors, and manipulations, take center stage, while your parents made excuses for your sibling’s ‘theater.’

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2. Consider the ways early feelings of dismissal resonate over time — for you or the other person

How do those early childhood behaviors by others impact how you feel about yourself today?
Those feelings of being dismissed might show up as:

  • Experiencing shame about asking for help
  • Feeling hypersensitive to the way people respond to you, even if has nothing to do with you
  • Allowing people to treat you disrespectfully
  • Being too intimidated to speak honestly
  • Holding yourself back from being totally authentic
  • Allowing others to steamroll over you 
  • Feeling like you are drowning but nobody hears your cry for help
  • Challenging everything

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3. Work on your confidence (and more!)

If any of these experiences sound familiar, it’s time to work on your confidence, self-respect, and boundaries. Try these steps to overcome the feelings of unworthiness and shame that you may be experiencing.

Call it like it is and put an accurate word to the feeling you are experiencing. How you feel can be very separate from the behaviors you will choose moving forward. If you make yourself crazy by worrying about what others think of you, it’s the hamster on the proverbial wheel, it will never happen. You yourself should be grateful for something when in fact you are angry.

Learn to separate those emotions. Both need to be addressed, but not necessarily at the expense of each other.

Be willing to move out of the shadows, one baby step at a time: a shift away from needing to be heard by those who silenced you. Repeated attempts to gain their approval hold you back. Give yourself permission to stop trying to please others. Stop needing others’ approval.

We all can have feelings of invisibility at times, but if you take these steps to ensure your thoughts and ideas are heard and valued, you can achieve the happiness you deserve.

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Pegi Burdick is a certified financial coach specializing in helping women and men turn around their stress and shame about money and get back control of their lives. To learn more, visit her website.

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