You are tired of his shoes being left at the side of the bed. You almost tripped over them getting up at night. It doesn’t take long for the argument to begin. “Why do you have to leave your stuff all over the place? Just put things away.” He glares at you and says, “Really? Miss.Perfect?” Now, both of you are getting upset. Nothing gets resolved. This is not a good argument.

A good argument allows you to express your mind, be open, listen and deal respectfully with differences.  And it can save your relationship.

Establish fighting rules

Good fights or arguments begin with preset rules. There is no swearing, yelling, name-calling, blaming, throwing up the past or disrespect. Thus, when you feel your anger rising, it’s time to take a time-out. Also, keep in mind, this is not about keeping score. Arguments should be aimed at taking a new step forward.

What’s behind the argument?

Once rules are established, then ask yourself, what am I really unhappy about? It’s not really the shoes, or taking out the trash, or even occasional lateness. Something deeper is triggering this argument.

When you don’t get to the real issue behind the argument, you have the same fight over and over. Then you lose your cool and become defensive or simply give up and start detaching. To avoid this, stop, think about what you feel and why. If you can get to the why you feel upset, it might stop the fight over things and focus your conversation on bigger relationship issues.

Timing is important

First, think about the timing of starting an argument. Are you tired, stressed, sick or dealing with too much? Then, this is not a good time to bring up a problem. And if the person isn’t ready to talk, don’t force it. Wait until they are ready.

Begin by listening to the other person’s point of view and wait your turn to speak.

Start soft, not with a verbal bomb

Next, leave criticism and anger at the door. Don’t start with a verbal bomb. Complain but don’t criticize. Your approach should be what we call soft, not harsh. “Hey honey, I want us to figure something out together” for example. Not, “You frustrate me by leaving your stuff everywhere.” “I feel…” instread of “You are…”

Repair any relationship damage

Now, if the other person is upset by something, repair the damage. “I am sorry for…” This signals a willingness to take responsibility and work towards reconciling the problem. It will also  keep things from escalating.. When you feel overwhelmed, stop and take a break. Take a deep breath and stick to the issue. Decide that the most important part of fighting is to preserve the relationship. That means being right is not the goal.

Consider compromise

Once you begin a calm discussion, is there any way to compromise or accommodate the other person? Does your partner make a good point? Can you accept his or her influence on the topic of discussion? The more willing you are to accept influence, the better an agument goes.

Problem-solve

Finally, problem-solve. Make a change in whatever area or topic is being discussed. If something can be solved, solve it. If not, agree to come back to it at another time. Or simply agree to disagree. Tell the person what you need and it might help change behavior.

The bottom line of any argument is to discuss your differences, but value and appreciate the other person regardless of the problem.

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