How to Disagree Better and Argue Less

by Rachel Miller

January 11, 2022

ABOVE : Kevin Grieve

When you find yourself in a sudden disagreement with someone, it can feel like you’re being attacked. You go in opposition mode. It’s you versus them. You feel a strong need to defend yourself: maybe if I say it a different way, they’ll understand, they’ll see I’m right; maybe they didn’t hear me the first time. So you repeat yourself to no avail. It can feel like this fragile situation that you are quickly losing grip. Next thing you know, it’s a full-blown argument.

It’s frustrating. Disagreements happen. We don’t want them. But, it’s inevitable when more than one person is involved. Is there a way to prevent them from turning into arguments? Can you prevent an argument before it begins? Is there a way to lessen the intensity? The duration? The impact?

Try something different:

  • Next time you find your self in a disagreement, notice the initial feeling of sensitivity arise–the instinct to defend yourself.

  • Before responding, ask yourself: What is my purpose in saying this? Am I trying to be right? Is this helpful to the other person?

  • Notice the tendency to focus on this one thing “ruining” your day. Nod and smile at the familiarity of the negtativity arising. Remember, this is one small moment in your entire day—it doesn’t have power to ruin your day. What you choose right now–your response–is more powerful than this. How you think about this situation–your perspective, your thoughts–is the only thing capable to make your day “good” or “bad.”

  • You can’t eliminate the negativity from the other person’s mind, but you can always make it easier for them (and therefore you too!) by providing a supportive response. Consider:
    • This will be more challenging because there is more than one person involved–it’s not just you, but both of you.
    • Consider: What do they need most from me right now? What have they identified in the past that they need from me in situations like this?
    • Provide them what would be most helpful for them. You may not feel like it–that’s OK. Keep your end goal in mind: What kind of day do you want? What do you want to experience? Put your immediate feelings aside and do what is most effective to create the experience you want.

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