01/06/2011 09:03 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Stop Arguing with Your Loved Ones

Did I ever tell you about the time I gave myself an award for "'Getting Off It' the Fastest"?

Well, I'm going to tell you right now because I think it will make a profound difference in your relationships with people, especially your loved ones.

When I married Shelly almost 30 years ago, I was a mess. I had just been divorced for a second time and was getting depressed frequently. When we argued, which happened frequently, my way of coping with upset was to withdraw -- for a couple of days! Shelly, on the other hand, would "get off it" (let go of the upset) in an hour or so and then wonder why I was reacting to something that had ended hours or even days before.

At some point we created a friendly competition to see who could get off it first -- in other words, who could let go of the upset totally and be back in relationship with the other person first. I ultimately acquired the ability to do that during an argument (as opposed to after it was over) and being able to stop right in the middle of it and just smile and say: "I'm sorry that whatever I am doing is upsetting you. Is there anything I can do to resolve this? I love you."

Here's what's important about what I was doing. I didn't say these words to placate Shelly or use extreme willpower while still being upset. I actually was able to stop the upset and then say words that were true for me.

How did I learn to do that? I started asking myself what meaning I was giving Shelly's behavior and comments. And then I used two simple steps to get rid of that meaning.

First I figured out two or three other meanings for whatever Shelly had done or said, other than the one I have given it. If it had other valid meanings, the one I had couldn't be "the truth." Then I asked myself if I could literally "see" the meaning I had given her actions and statements. Obviously I never could "see" the meaning I had given.

So I realized the meaning existed only in my mind. What she was doing and saying had no inherent meaning. The only meaning was the one I had given it.

Events that have no meaning can't make us feel anything. So the upset that I thought Shelly had "caused" was, in fact, caused by the meaning I had given what Shelly did and said. When that become real, the upset literally disappeared.

So how did I get the award? I created the reward myself and printed it out after a very special day. She had gotten angry at something I had said and done, and before I ever reacted to her, I asked myself: What does Shelly's reaction to me really mean? When I answered, nothing, I had no reaction to her anger at all. None. And then I said what I had been saying when I had gotten off it during an argument (but this time it was before the argument ever started): "I can see how you could get upset by what I did and said. And if you are angry, that's okay. And I love you." And I said it with a smile.

It's very hard to argue with someone who is not arguing back. She calmed down in a matter of minutes. Later that day I asked Shelly to give me the award I had created for getting off it the fastest ever -- a time that could never be beaten -- because I never got on it to begin with.

Remember, events have no inherent meaning, so nothing your loved one (or anyone else) does can upset you or make you angry. (If this isn't real for you, eliminate a couple of limiting beliefs without charge at and it will become real). What produces the upset or anger is the meaning you make up to explain why the other person did what they did.

For example, if your partner doesn't do something you asked her to do and then you give the event the meaning that you can't get what you want, you will get angry. If you give the event the meaning that your partner doesn't care about what you want, you will be hurt or upset. If you say that your partner's behavior could have many different meanings and, in fact, has no inherent meaning, you will feel nothing. You probably will just calmly do it yourself or ask your partner again if she will do it.

And that is something you can learn to do with practice (and, obviously, the more beliefs and conditionings you eliminate, the easier it is to do).

A Transformed Relationship with My Daughter

I haven't always been able to do that since that day, but I do most of the time with Shelly, and I even learned how to do it with my daughter Brittany when she was 14 (she's now 22 and in college).

I had always had a very close relationship with Brittany. She would tell me what she was thinking and feeling quite often. I usually visited Brittany after she came home from school and asked her how her day went and we had a nice chat. When she reached 13 or 14 years old, she changed. I joke that she was captured by aliens who left one of their own in her place, because my daughter couldn't not possibly have acted the way my daughter acted between the ages of 13 and 18 or 19. (In fact, this is a natural part of a child's development.)

At any rate, by the time she was a freshman in high school she had started getting angry at me frequently, telling me I was annoying (and worse), saying she didn't feel like talking, and asking me to leave her room.

Although I would comply, I would leave upset. Why upset? Because the meaning I was giving her behavior was that she was ruining our relationship (which was very important to me), that she was angry with me, that I couldn't talk to her any more, that she didn't love me the way she had loved me, etc. If that's what her behavior meant, that was upsetting to me.

I asked myself, what else could it mean? She was individuating, as she should be doing; she had a problem with one of her teachers; her hormones were raging; she had some difficulties with friends during the day; etc. Did I ever "see" that something fundamental had happened to "ruin" our relationship? That I wouldn't ever be able to talk to her the way we had in the past? No, I didn't see that. I only saw her behavior, which could have many different meanings other than the one I had given it.

So one day, as a result of doing the type of thinking I just described, I didn't get upset. I merely got up and left the room without saying a word. And after I left the room and closed her door, I said, "Honey, I hear a daughter who loves her dad very much and who's probably having a hard day. Sorry about that. I love you, too, sweetheart."

As I walked away I heard a shoe bounce off the door. Ten minutes later she came out of her room, threw her arms around me, kissed me and apologized for being shitty.

She acted that badly and worse hundreds of times over the next four or five years, but for the most part I was able to react without reacting. And it led to an incredibly close bond being formed between us. She knew I loved her unconditionally and would always be there for her because I didn't withdraw my love when she treated me badly.

It probably will take practice to give a different meaning to someone else's behavior, but when you do, arguments will become a thing of the past. Relationships will improve dramatically. And the quality of your life will skyrocket. And you'll be able to create your own "Get off it the fastest" award.


If you haven't yet eliminated at least one of your limiting self-esteem beliefs using the Lefkoe Belief Process, go to, where you can eliminate one limiting belief free.

Copyright ©2010 Morty Lefkoe