Relationships are exciting and stir all the senses. They bring out experiences within us that are both comfortable and uncomfortable. And while we don’t need to prepare for the best parts, often we fail to prepare for the challenging parts. All relationships have some form of argument. The most crucial element of arguments is how to “argue right”.
But what does it mean to “argue right”?
In today’s article, we’ll go over the 7 strategies on what that looks like. And what you can do to increase closeness and make yourself a relationship master:
1. How To Argue Right: Make The Issue Symbolically A Third-Party
No, I don’t mean the issue should ever be about another person. Cheating should never be tolerated in any shape or form—know the difference between emotional and physical cheating. Furthermore, you can find cheating in both monogamous and polyamorous relationships…really!
What making the issue a “symbolic 3rd party” means that you and your partner are a team. It should be: “me + you attacking the argument, not attacking each other”.
Often this is easier said than done. When we fail to self-regulate our emotions, we can slip into positions that make us rigid, inflexible to hearing our partner, and this is a recipe for intensity raised in conflict.
Arguing right is about finding constructive ways to approach issues. Even if they are hard or uncomfortable issues.
2. Argue Right By Self-Regulating
A really useful method is derived from The Gottman Method. This approach to relationships is backed by science. And if you’ve ever had the experience of going through therapy, working with someone who specializes in this method, you’ll appreciate the term “flooded”.
“Flooded” is a colloquial term used to describe our physiology in an argument with our partner. When we are flooded, we are unable to hear our partner’s needs and will instead shutdown or give-up on the relationship altogether.
Commonly, couples are asked to wear a pulse oximeter device (which measures heart rate and oxygen saturation) while discussing sensitive topics. When a person’s pulse rises past their normal heart rate, and the oxygen is low, the couple is asked to go on a “time out”.
The time out is an attempt to metabolize out all the excitatory and stress hormones in the body at that time. Usually taking around 30 minutes, the partner states “I’m flooded” and gives a clear time frame of when they can return to the argument.
This is not a time to bicker, ruminate on the next explicit thing they will say when they return or sound off about their partner to someone else. This is a personal time to get back to a state of relaxation. When we are calm, we can actively listen, and make our partner feel heard & understood.
3. Argue Right By Understanding
Arguments are not about proving “who is right”. “Who is right” doesn’t matter—if you love the person. It’s about understanding.
Understanding triumphs over “being right”. Because understanding is about inviting your partner into how their actions made you feel. And challenges them to be empathetic.
This requires vulnerability. And you must be able to be vulnerable with your partner. Vulnerability isn’t about being weak: it’s about being able to honor your internal experiences within and letting another know what that looks and feels like for you.
Try this equation: “I feel this _____” + “when you ___” + “it makes me feel like I can’t ____ with/to you.”
It’s common knowledge to begin statements in arguments with “I feel”. But more important, is the ability to show vulnerability to someone you love…even if you expect to be let down.
4. How To Argue Right: Do So With Love
They say relationships are all about communication. However, communication is difficult when emotions are flying. So try starting a conflict with “I love you, and I need to let you know…”
Then utilize the equation from point #3.
By doing this, you are letting your partner know that yes you are angry; yes you have unmet needs; yes something needs to be changed—and yet, you trust and depend on them that they can meet you there. Exactly where you need to be met.
This is what love is. Love is not about the elated highs and grand gestures. Love is about who you are through the challenges.
5. Love Is About How You Give It & Receive It
Here’s a secret: the relationship we have with ourselves will always reflect in how we relate with others. And so, when it comes to love, how we give love and receive love reveals how we do so with ourselves.
Never underestimate that when we react to the wrongdoings, hurt, or disappointments of others—we reveal how we are with ourselves.
Because compassion and kindness to ourselves—in our worst moments—will be what we serve to others close to us…or the lack of.
“People can only meet you, as deeply as they’ve met themselves.” -Matt Kahn
How are you meeting your pain, fears, insecurities, errors, shame, self-esteem?
6. Argue Right By Educating Yourself On Attachment Theory
I am such a big proponent for understanding your attachment style. Combined with the information by The Gottman Method, it’s a combination that can only propel you to win at your relationships by loving in a sincere way!
What is attachment theory? Essentially, how we related to our caregivers from ages 0-2 has a large effect on our adult relationships. Furthermore, if a child experiences trauma, this too will affect how we perceive, relate, and “show up” in our relationships.
There are three main types of attachment: secure; avoidant; and anxious. Secure is as it sounds, and the other two are insecure attachment styles. Avoidant typically is fearful of intimacy and closeness, while anxious attachment struggles with a constant preoccupation of wondering where they stand with their partners and consistently fearful of their partners leaving them.
7. The Biggest Rule To Arguing Right
Don’t say anything you might even ask for forgiveness later. Ever. Our brains do not have a “delete button”. Instead, it operates like a huge sponge—soaking up every experience and transforming them into memories. And ever memory becomes a new neural pathway. Either reinforcing previous existing pathways, or constructing something entirely different.
The problem with “throwing daggers” as I like to call it, is while it satisfies an instant gratification, arguments by nature end. They end. But the things you say will last forever.
Learn the value of finding options in how you express yourself. This is where the beauty of communication comes in. You can find ways of getting a message across, while articulating it in a way that is constructive…rather than destructive.
Have the ability to be mindful of how you express your frustrations, wants, and needs. People don’t respond to demands—they respond to how they made you feel.
State your needs in a gentle, yet firm, way.
Every relationship will have conflict. The point is not IF you argue, but HOW you argue. Period.
We all will experience good days and bad days; feeling loving and close to our partner or days feeling the complete opposite—the human psyche is balanced. Experiencing natural ebb & flow in its different states of perceived happiness and satisfaction, to the extreme opposite.
I once heard of a quote, “A relationship with no arguments, is a relationship with a lot of secrets.”
This quote speaks to the fact some believe the “ideal” relationship is void of arguments. But arguments are healthy ways to bring the opportunity for new growth, and showing through shared experience, how partners value each other more than the idea of “winning” or “conquering” over the other.
Lastly, by understanding our attachment style and utilizing proper communication skills (The Gottman Method), we really can give ourselves—including our relationships—the boost of support it needs. Persevere to be accountable, have integrity, apologize sincerely, and forgive generously to free yourself.
Relationships can be hard. But with the person who desires to love and grow with you by your side, can also be worth it.
Stay Well & Vibe Well,
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