Follow these golden rules of arguing better
How to handle arguments in a relationship
We all have disagreements. You’re individuals with thoughts and ideas of your own so of course there will be times when you are on different wavelengths. But you know getting into endless conflict damages yourselves, your relationship and ultimately your children. How can you get off the roundabout of the futile argument?
Don’t go for Zero Sum! We tend to feel an argument is only ended if one of you wins. That’s called a Zero Sum Game, when a win for one means a loss for the other. But in relationships when one of you comes out top and the other is beaten it ends up as a loss for everyone. The winner may feel triumphant and justified but the other feels resentful. Tring to ‘Win’ at love may cost your relationship. What’s more a child listening to this gets the idea that winning is all. Instead, look for Win/Win, when neither of you may get exactly what you want but by agreeing you both get some of what you want. And best of all, you feel you’ve found a resolution so don’t go on feeling resentful.
Change your message. When we’re angry we tend to want to blame the other person. So, we say “You…”. “Look at what You made me do!” “I hate it when You…” “You’re so lazy…” ‘You’ messages put the other person on the defensive and all they may concentrate on is saying “No I did not!”. So instead, say “I”, and more importantly. “I feel…” So – “I do get angry when I feel you’re not listening to me.” “I am upset when I come home and you haven’t done the chores we agreed were yours.”
Try “I” messages like this. “When (say what has happened) “I feel…(state your exact feelings – let down, sad, angry, whatever)” “Because (say what it is about the situation upsets you)”. And then the clincher – either “What I would like is…” or “What shall we do about this?”.
Be clear. Sometimes we shout about one thing while really being angry about another. That often results in us seeming to behave in an over the top way – why would we be so angry about one little towel on the bathroom floor? So, you need to dive under your words to find the real feelings. Not about the untidiness but about the feeling that you’re being taken for granted, ignored or unloved. Say that. And not as an accusation but as an invitation to talk. “When… I feel… because…what…”
Watch your tone and body language. Saying “You left towels on the bathroom floor” through gritted teeth, with a voice tone that scare the neighbours and with your hands on hips or arms crossed says something very different to “Hi Hon – be a love and go pick up those towels…” with an open face and arms by your side or full of the baby.
One at a time. It’s easy once you’re shouting to say “And another thing…” That way an endless, repetitive row lies. Instead, chose one thing you need to say and have resolved and do that. Once you’ve achieved some change you can calmly go on to another issue. But keep them separate. If needs be, sit down, write them out and prioritise.
Bounty “Sex & Relationship” articles are written by expert Suzie Hayman. Suzie is agony aunt for Woman magazine, a Relate trained counsellor, and an accredited TripleP (Positive Parenting Programme) parenting educator. She makes frequent appearances on TV and radio and as well as writing 31 books, Suzie writes features on parenting, relationships, sex and couples counselling, for a wide range of national magazines and newspapers