How to Survive an Argument

Why is it that the logic and negotiation skills that work brilliantly at work fail miserably when you are communicating with your woman? I’ve been asked to share some “conflict management” tips which may assist you.

Stay Calm. Just like the approach to fire safety. Fight or flight is a chemical fact – not a theory. When we get upset, blood flows from the brain to the extremities. So the brain’s running low on fuel. If you’re upset, tell your partner you need time to calm down so you can think rationally. And if she’s the upset one? Go straight to step 2.

Acknowledge. You don’t have to agree – but just hear her out – and if nothing else – recognize she is upset (even if it is not logical to you – the “upset” exists and is valid to us). Using words like “relax” or “chill out” are much like throwing jet engine fuel into an open flame. Instead, acknowledge that she is upset and that you want to help. The louder she talks, the softer you speak (she will have to quiet down just to hear you). Don’t push the limit and whisper – this will be bad.

Listen. Actually listen. A major misconception most men have is that listening equals hearing. Wrong! Listening is a two-way process, and not a perfect regurgitation of what we just said. Listen, give feedback- clarify and paraphrase. Most guys are very good about talking about themselves. Try including a “how about you?” after some of your diatribes.

Understand our different styles. Women get a bad rap for not being rational or logical. Put simply, men and women have different styles of communicating. The style guys use (e.g. “don’t feel like going out – catch ya another time”) will not be effective with women. She wants to give you the benefit of the doubt (after all, you’re the one she chose to be with). So put your pride aside and expend some energy in helping her understand you. It might not seem necessary, but it works. Instead of “I don’t feel like going out tonight” – which may make her defensive – tell the honest why. (Perhaps you have a backache, which she could help with – or you just want her all to yourself!)

Show guts. Assuming you want to survive the argument, tell her you want to find a resolution because you want the relationship to work. This does not mean giving in (and NEVER try to be funny with the “yes, dear” approach – sarcasm is the lowest form of humour and an even lower arguing skill). A simple articulation that you truly want to resolve the issue because you care and want the relationship to continue can go a long way.

Marie Braswell, MA Conflict Analysis & Management

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