No matter how well you get on, there are going to be times when differences create conflict. If you're relating with honesty and authenticity, it's healthy to feel upset, angry, frustrated and generally let down sometimes. So, it's really important to learn how to have healthier arguments.
When it comes to conflict resolution, good communication is paramount. Instead of letting our feelings take over and losing perspective, it's so helpful to practice listening and really seeing the other person and their side of the story, as well as our own.
If you're looking for some tips on how to have healthier arguments, here are 10 that will really help!
If you want to have a healthier relationship, you need to stay connected. And when it comes to healthy arguments, that means looking at each other. Because it's only when you're looking at the other person that you can observe their body language. This will guide you to act with more empathy and connect more with them.
Check why it’s important to resolve the conflict between you. You love the person you’re currently in conflict with, and that’s the most important point to remember! Think about the 'us' perspective, rather than a ‘you’ or ‘me’ perspective. This helps you to prioritise the relationship and limit any defensive responses that may arise if one person is feeling criticised, defensive or unloved.
As detailed by John Gottman, the Four Horsemen are signs of the negative communication patterns used, that prevent us from having healthy and productive communication with others. The second Horsemen is ‘Contempt’ and eye rolling is a classic sign of this. Not only is it disrespectful to roll your eyes, but if left checked that contempt will grow and lead to the destruction of any fondness, admiration and love you have for the other person.
It's crucial that you communicate from the heart even when you are feeling angry or having an argument. After all, you care about the other person, so it pays to speak from the heart. Clean anger is factual, connected into your belly and usually best kept brief. It's perfectly healthy to express anger clearly and cleanly if your boundaries have been crossed. Don't stay in your anger for any longer than is necessary.
Just because you're angry it doesn’t mean you can be sarcastic or nasty to the other person. Everybody has the right to be treated with dignity and respect and it's not ok to be mean, just because you're annoyed or upset. Be responsible for your actions and your words.
If you feel flooded or overwhelmed it is ok to ask to stop and have a break. This is particularly important if you feel the situation is escalating and you're no longer able to have a rational conversation with the other person. A good timescale for a time-out is 20 minutes. When we're 'flooded' with emotion our reptilian brain takes over and there is no point trying to resolve the conflict, agree when will be a time to come back to the conversation.
If you do decide to have a time-out, ensure you both return when you say you will, otherwise levels of trust will be negatively affected. Agree a suitable length of time away and come back when you’re both refreshed and calm.
It's important that you don't start an argument when you're not able to use your best brain. Make it an agreement not to argue if either of you have consumed alcohol, are overtired or are feeling down. It’s much kinder to wait until you’re both able to be in the right headspace to discuss things rationally.
Listening is the key to effective communication. But there are times when things get in the way of us listening and there are times when we will disassociate with the other person, and this can often lead us to say something we might regret. Stay connected by asking questions and being curious about what is being said. Ask your partner to help spot it, if you know disassociation is something that tends to happen to you.
It’s far better to have a healthy argument than to sit on those suppressed emotions and feelings, running the risk of doing permanent damage to your relationship. But if you feel that you are unable to communicate with each other safely and in a constructive way, look to seek out couples therapy, so you can learn to communicate better with each other and look to take your relationship to a healthier level.
We all have times when all we want to do is get the anger off our chest. However if you wish to protect your relationship from long lasting damage, choose one of these new habits and start practising having healthier arguments.