The Top 10 Ways to De-fuse an Argument

Even in the happiest, most harmonious relationships, there are bound to be disagreements from time to time. When you and your partner are also stressed out, tense, tired, strained or otherwise not at your peak, a small disagreement can turn into an argument.

What can be deadly for a love relationship or marriage is not so much that a disagreement or argument has developed, it’s what happens after it starts.

The effects to your relationship are akin to a bomb going off. Hurt feelings, resentment, anger and distance are left behind.

Be honest with yourself and own up to your usual habits when it comes to communicating before, during and after an argument. While there are probably many things your partner does that makes the situation worse, what do YOU do?

The more you can identify and be responsible for your role in an argument, the easier it will be for the argument to resolve peacefully and quickly.

The next time an argument develops between you and your partner, put into action these 10 de-fusing strategies…

1. Listen
Yes, you’ve got important points to make about the contentious issue, but be sure to also listen and give space and attention to what your partner needs to say.

2. Stop yourself when you start to blame.
To blame the other person for whatever seems to be wrong happens in just about every argument. Hear your blaming thoughts and question them before you speak them. If you’ve already made an accusation or laid blame on your partner, it’s not too late to stop, back up and assess the accuracy of what you’ve said.

3. Remember the facts.
Things can get heated and confusing in the middle of an argument. Try to stick to the facts– what is observable and verifiable. If you don’t know, don’t guess. Instead, ask your partner a question like, “Please help me understand why….” or review what the facts are together. Keep returning to what you can both verify.

4. Stick to a no name-calling and no violence policy.
If arguments between you and your partner tend to get nasty, ask him or her to set up some communication rules with you. When you’re not in the middle of a disagreement, talk about how you each want to be spoken to and consider setting a clear no name-calling and no violence policy.

5. Ask for a “time-out” if you need one.
When you can’t think straight because you are so angry or hurt, it’s time to take a “time-out.” Be clear with your partner that you’re not running away from conflict. Set a specific time when you two will sit down together again and revisit this issue.

If you feel frightened of your partner’s behavior, you can also take a “time-out.” *If he or she is being abusive in some way, rather than a “time-out,” get away to a safe space.

6. Use “I feel” statements.
Remember to talk in terms of how you feel. Instead of saying, “You made me feel…” say, “I feel ___ when I see you____.” It is a subtle yet big difference. Take ownership for how you feel AND acknowledge that you have these feelings in relation to a specific action.

7. Open up to new solutions.
Be on the lookout for place where you and your partner actually do agree. At first glance, it might appear that you are not even on the same page. If you can look at what’s going on from the viewpoint of an observer instead of from an “opposing side,” you might see that you two aren’t as far apart on this as you believe.

8. Really- literally- listen.
You might think that you’re listening to your partner, but are you REALLY listening? Focus on what your partner is literally saying to you. Don’t add in your assumption of what he or she means, but listen to the literal words.

9. Repeat back what you think you heard.
Another way to make sure you aren’t reacting based on inaccurate information or assumptions is to repeat back what you think your partner just said– especially if this has brought up strong emotions in you. If you feel like you’re not being understood, you can offer to repeat what you just said.

10. Lead with your priorities.
Keep at the forefront of your mind what your priorities are for this situation and for your relationship and life too. It’s tempting to lead with the desire to be “right” or prove your point. It’s okay if this is your priority. But, if you have a different priority– such as to solve a problem or stay connected to your partner– make sure you are being guided by what’s most important to you.

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