Less Fighting, More Right-ing: How to Argue with Intent

open the lines of communication.

open the lines of communication.

The term “argue” has a negative connotation, evoking images of battles of will, stubborn impasses, and wounded pride. But arguing isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, according to Professor William Doherty, a professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Family Social Science, a recent study suggests 44 percent of married couples believe that some form of fighting or arguing at least once a week helps couples stay together. Now why would this be the case? Arguing is said to keep the lines of communication open between partners as opposed to suppressing feelings, which can lead to built-up resentment and even worse problems down the line.

According to Doherty, it is important to maintain the different between “good” and “bad” fighting. “Constructive conflict can put a spark in a relationship, ” he told the Star Tribune. “Love needs a spark every now and then.” Just like having a partner who agrees with everything you say can become boring or even annoying, having a partner who picks a fight about every single thing can also become a nuisance and even be destructive to a relationship.

The key to arguing that will reveal a positive outcome is understanding how to go about it and approach the topic. For one, the intent should never be to hurt or abuse the other. No matter how tempting it might be to do so, attacking and blaming your partner will only cause them to become defensive, which will in turn only serve to close off the communication pathways. Also, both partners have to be willing to communicate and want to participate in the discussion. An organized debate is an excellent example of how this principle works in action: both individuals are present of their own accord and each person allows the other to present his or her side before providing a rebuttal. While the debate may not result in either party changing his or her point of view, at least both people have the opportunity to share their opinions, which is the biggest part of the battle.

To get the discussion rolling, Doherty recommends a “soft start-up.” What he means by that is gently easing into the topic as opposed to flat-out attacking one’s partner. Say, for instance, you feel like your significant other isn’t helping out around the house enough. An example of a soft start-up would be: “I understand that you are exhausted but I feel like I”ve been doing a lot of extra work around the house lately.” A example of a hard start-up is: “How can you just sit around while I clean the entire house by myself?” It doesn’t take a lot to recognize which statement is likely to lead to a negative argument and which one will open up a more positive line of communication.

A few more helpful tips for improved arguing:

1) Give your partner your complete attention. Is he/she trying to talk to you? Be considerate and put down your phone, turn off the television and get rid of any distractions that will interfere with communication. Treat others as you wish to be treated.

2) Don’t walk away from the situation. Unless you are consumed by major rage that could possibly lead to violence, leaving mid-argument will only create more negative feelings and lengthen the argument. What could have been a brief half-hour argument then turns into an argument that last several days, and by that point, you usually don’t even recall what you were originally arguing about.

3) Be honest. Don’t expect your partner to be able to read your mind. We all get annoyed when someone says “I’m fine” and it’s obvious that they aren’t. It will also feel so much better once you get the issue off your chest, not to mention that you’ll be steps closer to reaching some form of resolution.

4) Don’t seek revenge. Many people who prefer to avoid confrontation end up being secretly spiteful, which then leads to sneaking around and doing things behind your partner’s back that you know he or she wouldn’t approve of. Getting revenge not only creates more friction and bad energy but it also breaks down strength and bonds between the two of you. Plus, it’s even worse when you get caught.

5) This one is my personal favorite: always say something positive while you communicate something negative. If I ever find myself having a disagreement with my boyfriend, I always make sure to mention how much I love him or appreciate the things he does for me. I do this for several reasons. One, it’s the truth, and no matter what, I love him and it doesn’t hurt to enforce my feelings. Two, it helps lessen the severity of the blow that I’m about to deliver. And three, it’s so much harder to get mad or stay mad at someone who is basically saying something nice to you. Sometimes we even find ourselves laughing mid-argument, and by that point, it’s over and done with. Now what were we arguing about again?

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