Arguing Techniques: Relationships are delicate things and it’s entirely possible that a single overreaction can tear them apart. For this reason, couples need to learn how to argue with each other. When you get angry or hurt is NOT the time to figure this out! Thus, you have to do it when you’re both in a calm, loving spirit. Here are my basic rules of engagement:
1) Never fight when you’re angry. If possible, agree that you’ll go off and let the biggest emotional elements calm down before you talk about the problem.
2) Never fight when you’re tired. I know you’ve heard the stupid advice, “Don’t go to bed angry”, but in fact, when you’re tired, you’re not going to give this the best effort. Further, some sleep will often help to put things in perspective.
3) When you argue or fight, always realize that you’re doing this together as a team in order to improve aspects of the relationship – not to harm the other person. We all want revenge, but revenge has no place in relationships!
4) Make sure you have enough time to sit down and really deal with the problems. Decide CLEARLY AND SPECIFICALLY what the issue is! Then, deal ONLY WITH THAT ISSUE!!! NO bringing in other past problems and no creating new ones. You’re there to ONLY deal with the one issue.
5) Further, it’s usually only one person that is hurt or angry at the actions of the other. If you or your partner are the one that is upset, you MUST NOT bring in any other issue right now. Agree that you’ll deal with other issues later, but for now, you’re going to talk about just this one thing.
6) When you talk – use “committee courtesy”. That means, that one person gets to talk until they are finished. Even if they take long pauses between thoughts, they still have the “floor” until they give it up. The other person can take notes of they want to and address everything that is said, but the speak MUST STAY ON TOPIC. They cannot bring in other elements other than the one at hand.
7) When the speaker is talking about the problem, they can only use words like “I feel” and “I believe” or “I want”. They can NEVER say “You did” or “You are” or “You act”, etc. They have to deal only with personal feelings.
8) When a person is NOT speaking, they must be listening! By “listening”, I mean “active listening”. That is when you can take what the other person says and paraphrase it with the same meaning, but in your own words. In fact, it’s a good idea to do this often. You might first ask if you can restate the issue and then do it in another way, asking if your understanding is correct.
9) If things get emotionally charged, either partner can ask for a “break”. This is a 10-minute cooling-off period, where you get a drink or a snack and come back to it afterward.
10) Finally, always remember: this is all about growing the relationship, not getting revenge or trying to make up for hurts. Everyone is inconsiderate some times. Everyone has missed expectations some times. This is normal in relationships. It’s how you deal with them that’s important.