By BRYANT MATERA and KAT DICKINSON
Arguments. Fights. Tiffs. Disagreements. Whatever you want to call them, however severe they are, every couple, family and group of friends has them. Here’s a basic how-to on surviving them and keeping your relationships intact.
BAM: If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: do no interrupt. Never, ever, ever. Everybody wants to be heard, and even if you hear something you don’t agree with, let them speak and then give your rebuttal. It might sting to have to sit through it and hear them say something you don’t agree with at all, but if you expect them to sit there and listen to you, you need to be prepared and sit there and listen to them. Interrupting is a rookie mistake that only exacerbates the issue, and it gives them one more thing to yell at you about.
KED: Totally. It’s really hard for me to get interrupted, since my attention span is so short to begin with. I easily forget what I was going to say, and then nothing really gets solved. If you find yourself with this problem, a good solution is actually writing out your argument first. This gives you a way to calmly prepare yourself and your words, so you don’t end up saying harmful things that you didn’t really mean. It also helps you make sure that you get out everything that you wanted to cover in the first place.
BAM: If you sense something is afoot, let them come to you. Don’t push the issue. When they’re good and ready, they will tell you, especially if their issue is directly related to you. If you dig and dig, you’re bound to annoy them even more, and then you’ve added more fuel to the fire.
KED: If you do get pushed emotionally, don’t let it get to you. Try to hold on to a gentle calm. Don’t let that fire burn you up inside. Practice breathing exercises—deep, paced breaths usually help me. That whole “count to 10 before you say anything” idea really does work. It’s hard for me to count in my head without getting more distracted and upset, so I breathe for 10 seconds instead. The extra time allows me to quiet the anger enough, so that I can speak more softly about what is bothering me.
BAM: Know when to quit. This is pretty much a guy-centered tip, but it works with parents, too. I’m not saying you should just roll over and surrender, but there are some fights, no matter how ridiculous they are, that you just will not win over your ladies or your mom and dad. And when you are wrong, admit it.
KED: Don’t be afraid to take responsibility when you know you’re wrong. That’s the mature thing to do. Be the bigger person and allow the blame to rest with you when that’s where it belongs. Forcing the blame onto the other person just causes more issues down the line, and isn’t fair to them. If it truly is the other person’s fault, though, don’t drag the blame out too much on them. Just because they might have done something truly hurtful or wrong, you don’t make it better by constantly blaming them and never giving them relief.
BAM: Stay calm. If you can approach the issue in a more subdued manner, your patience and theirs is much less likely to wear thin. This is often a fine line to walk, though. For some, patience might come across as indifference, so be careful just how cool you play it.
Oh, and do not crack jokes. It might work if you’re seasoned at this, but please, attempting to lighten the mood with humor is a good way to get a door slammed in your face. Fights aren’t laughing matters. It might be a different story a few months down the road, but don’t try to get to that place in the middle of one. Try not to say something you don’t mean. Comments fired in the heat of the moment have a way of sticking with the victim, even after things cool down. Don’t plant that seed of insecurity in them.
KED: I totally agree here. Words are often hurtfully remembered, and even though you might not have meant what you said to such a severe degree, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to be exceptionally hurt by it.
If you are hit with some ill-mannered words, however, try to stay calm and realize that they probably didn’t mean what they said, and if they apologize, try to forgive them. Some people just aren’t calm when it comes to arguments. They might never be, and you have to be ready for that when it comes.
BAM: Respect their stance. You might disagree with them or even think their point of view is full of it, but you have to respect the fact that they feel a certain way. You might not even see or understand why they feel the way they do, but you need to be aware of their feelings, whether it makes sense to you or not. Try to empathize. Don’t shoot them down. Respectfully acknowledge how they feel and make your own case.
KED: Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree. This concept is a lot harder to implement than it sounds. Realize that some issues just won’t ever get resolved. That’s perfectly okay. Maybe he’s a Democrat and you’re a Republican; that sort of thing. Not every pair is going to agree on everything. Talk calmly, and remember that having differing opinions doesn’t have to end a relationship.
Having different stances can make it considerably more difficult for the both of you, and continually attempting to somehow sway strongly held opinions is an impossible waste of time. Respecting the fact that you both feel differently and working through it to a suitable middle ground or compromise really speaks volumes, and will make your relationship that much stronger.
With Spring Break on the horizon, you’re likely to butt heads with your parents when you get home. You can use these tips at any time with anyone, from girlfriends and boyfriends all the way to your professors. An argument doesn’t have to result in the total breakdown of a relationship or friendship, whether it’s a personal or professional one. Conflicting views are inevitable, but there are right and wrong ways to handle it. Breathe, stay calm, and be mature.