How to have a Constructive Argument

Have you ever been in the middle of an argument with your partner and thought, "I wonder if they're even listening to me"?

Or perhaps you mentioned a concern of yours to your friend, only to have him or her storm off in anger.

Have you received a text message response from your boyfriend that ends with a period and thought, "Uh oh, why is he mad at me? What did I do"?

I have personally experienced all three of these scenarios. and they all have one thing in common: they are the result of poor communication.

Many people do not realize that effective communication is not something that is naturally inherent. It is very much a learned skill. I am here to help you figure it out!

I want to start by saying that respectful communication with regards to arguments varies from one culture to the next. For instance, in some cultures, it is considered rude to have eye-contact while speaking. I am only familiar with one culture, and that is my own. So, in that sense, this article is coming from a modern Canadian point of view, although the tips that I provide can be used by anyone!

To give you a bit of a backstory, I was raised in a home where the fights mimicked a world war. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but as a kid, that was my reality. I was never a witness to proper, healthy communication. Nothing was ever resolved. Problems were swept under the rug. Lots of really terrible things were said. It was a nasty environment, and certainly not one where I could learn anything of value.

BUT, though I am not awesome at a lot of things, communication has always been my jam. It has kind of just always been in me. Speaking, reading, and writing are three of my great loves. I thank God that I was born with this natural ability, otherwise, I'm not sure how my life would have been. Sure, I learned lots throughout grade school and through persuing my Psychology degree, but having this inherent ability to communicate has been a Godsend.

With that being said, let me tell you what I do know for sure.

First, I'd like to create a list of 'arguing techniques' that I have witnessed, ones that absolutely, do. not. work. EVER.

  1. Yelling. Nobody listens to yelling. Yelling ultimately drowns out your words and increases your volume. The actual message won't be received, but rather becomes an irritating noise.

  2. Ignoring. Storming away, hanging up the phone, browsing your phone, the silent treatment, or anything that exhibits you ignoring your partner is essentially 'burying your head in the sand', and is one of the most juvenile things you can do. It tells the other person that you are not interested in trying to solve your issues. Now, this is different from walking away because you need a moment to calm down. It can be constructive to tell your partner that you need a minute to collect yourself, so you don't say something you will regret.

  3. Name-calling. Really? I feel like I don't need to go any further than saying that this is verbal abuse, and that it is not welcome in any setting.

  4. Sarcastic jabs. We are all guilty of saying something sarcastic along the lines of, "oh, but you're so perfect". I will admit, I have done this. BUT, I don't anymore. Why? Because all it does is fuel the fire. You accomplish nothing by being sarcastic during a moment of emotional vulnerability. It also lessens the impact of, and diverts from your actual argument.

  5. Overanalyzing. Don't overanalyze an argument. You are probably already oversensitive and overcome with emotions. Overanalyzing will send you down a deep, dark hole. Don't let a period at the end of a text send you into a full-on meltdown. It's simply proper grammar. And IF someone is trying to tell you that they are mad at you by putting a period at the end of a text, then they need lessons on how to effectively communicate their feelings.

Don't get me wrong, you're not a bad person for raising your voice or for being guilty of any of the points above. These are things that naturally happen when we are angry; we are only imperfect human beings after all. Growth is part of life. Consider this a super brief manual of where you can start.

That being said, if you want to attempt to come to a resolution by the end of your argument, for the love of God, try to avoid them. Instead, read further to see what might help you!

  1. Calm demeanor. Remaining calm during an argument is one of the strongest things you can do. Being calm allows you to be thoughtful with your words, increasing the importance and validity of what you are saying. Being calm doesn't make you a pushover. It makes you a respectful person who wants to utilize energy in an effective way. I know it can be hard to feel calm in a moment of fiery anger but try your best.

  2. Acknowledgment. One of the best things you can do during an argument is to acknowledge the others' concerns. You don't necessarily have to agree with them but for the love of all that is holy, don't dismiss them. Just because you do not think there is a problem, doesn't mean there isn't one. Your opinions are not the be all end all. There are two (or more) players in this game. You can say something like, "I see your point", or "I understand that you have a concern".

  3. Listen. Like, really listen. Don't pretend to listen while you rehearse in your head what your rebuttal will be. Hear what the other person is saying. Ignoring what they are saying because you are so enthralled with the voice in your head is self-absorbed. Be respectful, and when the other person is finished, think about how you would like to reply.

  4. Respect. This kind of ties into all points, but I can't stress it enough. You need to show respect for the person you are arguing with. In the same breath, have respect for yourself as well. If your partner begins to raise his or her voice, demand that they not speak to you that way. If you can see that they are blatantly ignoring you, bring it to their attention. Chances are that they don't even know they are doing it. Further, most times we are arguing with someone we love whether it's our partner, family member, or friend. We should always respect them above all, and vice versa.

I would also like to make a pretty obvious statement: arguing with a loved one should never be like entering the boxing ring! You are not battling each other. You are two equals who are trying to come to a resolution. 'Winning' the fight should not be your end goal, and unless you are already wanting to end the relationship, be careful to not burn the bridge. Don't say things that you cannot take back.

Lastly, arguments are inevitable. They happen because we are all individuals on unique paths, experiencing a unique journey. We all perceive things differently and because of this, we can't agree with each other 100% of the time. If you and your partner do agree on every single facet of life, I'd love to do a case study on you.

Like all things in a good, healthy relationship, set your argument atop a foundation of love.

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