With the possible exception of trial lawyers, no one really enjoys arguing—especially when it comes to relationships. However, while arguments are bound to crop up from time to time, with a little practice and effort, you can learn to head them off at the pass.
So the next time you feel yourself or your significant other gearing up for a fight, try these three simple tips to diffuse the situation. In no time, you’ll be learning to communicate more and argue less.
1. Choose your battles. This is all about perspective. If you’ve had a bad day, recognize that you’re unusually sensitive to things like a messy house, rowdy kids or the dry cleaning your spouse forgot to pick up. So don’t just march in and start barking orders like a general. Instead, take time to unwind, decide what you’re genuinely angry about (instead of just assigning a scapegoat for your crummy day), focus on that and propose a solution you can live with.
Is the messy house constantly getting on your nerves? Suggest a family meeting to assign a few chores and get the clutter under control. Is the kids’ roughhousing giving you a headache? Ask them to play outside for a while. Are you really mad about the dry cleaning? Unless the cleaners are still open and you can make the trip yourself, it might be best to let that one go. After all, everyone makes mistakes (even you).
2. Keep your promises. Sounds simple, right? But as humans, we all sometimes let promises slip through the cracks without considering the consequences. Say it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and you’re out playing golf with your buddies. You promised to get home early to help your wife prepare for a big dinner party, but your friends want you to join them for a beer at the clubhouse. It seems harmless enough. Your wife probably has it all under control anyway, so what could it hurt?
In short, it could hurt a lot, because she’s counting on you. No, this doesn’t mean you have to agree to every favor that’s asked of you. It means that you should always think before you make a promise, and once it’s made, keep it.
3. You’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s worth repeating. Just take a beat before speaking. (Even if you believe you are 100% right and what you have to say needs to be said RIGHT NOW.)
Breathe in for a count of three and out for a count of six. Do this 3 times before you speak. Or maybe go to the bathroom first. Sometimes just a quick change of scene can help you gain clarity before you speak.
Before long, these tips—choosing your battles carefully, doing what you say you’re going to do and taking a moment before speaking—will begin creating more constructive discussions and fewer destructive arguments. That’s one goal we can all agree on.
If you are tired of the way things are, then let’s get started. Contact our professional therapists at the Relationship Center of Orange County. Schedule your appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 393-8662, or text us.