So many quarrels are out of control quickly escalating to make things worse. Whatever the subject matter is, it's soon forgotten and all kinds of stuff are dredged up to squabble over. But people need to speak about what upsets them so they can find solutions. How do they do it in a way that brings resolution in a healthy way?
10 Tips for Healthy Arguments
1. Keep the subject matter very narrow. Agree to the topic from the start.
2. If the topic strays to other matters, agree that each person will point this out and decide to stick to the original topic and save the other subjects for another time.
3. Above all, keep relatively or reasonably calm. Voice tones will rise and fall, but there needs to be a level above which no one goes. For example, no yelling, screaming, or shouting. If that begins, table the topic to later when everyone is calm.
4. Speak about what "I need, want, wish, hope, desire" not what "You should do for me right now!" Avoiding the you word is a big step that leads to even discussions.
5. Think before you speak. This means allow for pauses, silences, delays in responding. Expect the other person to be quiet now and then without taking it as a personal insult because you don't receive an instant reply.
6. Keep hand motions to a minimum. It's natural to speak with one's hands but avoid finger pointing, touching including tapping, shoving, pushing, hitting, or any violent gestures.
7. When you feel responded to, say "thank you." Recognize and validate the other person for listening and hearing what you say.
8. Think hard about what you intend before you speak. Many arguments fly out of hand because of misinterpretations.
9. Remember you want to be able to speak to this person later in a healthy way. Be mindful of their feelings when you choose your words. Nasty comments are hard to forget.
10. Above all, remember you are two human beings with differences and that differences are normal but need to be worked out to continue a healthy relationship. Sometimes one wins and the other loses out for this discussion. Other times there are compromises.
If you care about the relationship it's easier to keep the argument in a healthy plane. If you are former friends or ex-spouses, perhaps the future of the relationship is less important to you, but it may very well affect others, such as children. So healthy arguments set a good example for others while leaving you feeling much more satisfied with the outcome.
Arguments are healthy unto themselves. That's the key. It's how they are carried out that is the measure of success.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with a recent book that guides healthy arguments for families, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Familius, libraries, and wherever books are sold.