by Cynthia M. Braden, LMFT
A frequent concern when I receive an initial call from a client, is that they are having problems with arguing with a partner, child, parent, sibling or close friend. I think it is relatively easy to unintentionally get stuck in a pattern of disagreement and arguing with someone, which may evolve into a resentment and 'stuckness' that can be very unpleasant and hard to break. Here are a few ideas from many years working with couples, individuals and families.
1. Decide that you want to stop arguing, and that you yourself, are going to choose other ways of interacting, regardless of what the other person may be doing or saying. This may not be too easy, but we can obtain education to learn alternate and more effective ways of understanding and expressing ourselves.
2. Consider who you are dealing with. You already know this person. You probably know if they are normally collaborative and willing to work on things, or blocking and defensive. If this is a person who is inflexible historically, we are going to have to face that reality, and develop a plan. It's not going to help to constantly believe that a person is finally going to collaborate, when the likelihood of that is very low. Be careful about getting in a pattern of wearing your heart on your sleeve, unless it's reciprocal.
3. Protect yourself. If you have decided not to argue, it is wise to avoid situations or topics that commonly provoke disharmony. It is very important to understand yourself, and what you need and want in a particular circumstance. I often find one of the biggest hurdles, is that people don't really understand themselves. They don't know what they want or need. What they are usually doing is criticizing, emoting and pointing a finger at others because they want to feel better, or get things done, and think this might help. Believe me this does not help. :)
4. Develop, and be ready to deliver, your core messages such as: What I want to see happen in this situation is... (fill in the blank). How I feel about this is... (fill in the blank). Use adjectives to describe feeling states. But first consult with yourself, and decide, 'How do I really feel about this?' 'What do I want to see happening here?' Notice you are already beginning to pivot away from the problems and structure solutions by doing this.
5. Avoid criticizing, complaining, and justifying. If your person has a problem with something you are doing, you can hear it. Don't be afraid to listen to it. Just say, "Ok you are saying (fill in the blank)..... Is that right?" This doesn't mean that you have to agree, obey, condone, grovel or feel bad about yourself. It definitely benefits you to be 'big' enough to hear the concerns as long as they are delivered respectfully. When you stop arguing and say something like, "Ok you are having a problem with such and such. Tell me some more about that." And basically listen to what the person is saying, a major change starts to happen. Make sure you understand that you do not have to agree obey or condone, so it is safe to hear it. It really doesn't hurt. By you listening without refuting, a shift starts to happen in the other person and the relationship. Now if there is abuse going on, I don't recommend opening yourself up to being hurt. Please reach out for help right away if there is abuse going on. People definitely need support when they are being abused.
6. Accept the situation and/or make some hard decisions. Ultimately it may come down to deciding if this is a relationship that needs to be saved or not. We are here to help you with your decisions and interventions along this journey. Thank you for visiting!
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