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Tired of the Same Old Arguments?

a couple wearing sunglasses looking away from each other

Sometimes we can get stuck in cycles with people we care about, like your friends, significant others, parents, or children. Often times the argument is over something different, but the underlying issue is the same so the arguments begin to feel draining like there is no way out. So how do you stop this from happening??

1. Stop and Think. Take a few minutes to gather your thoughts before you respond. Ask yourself if you really are in a space to have a productive discussion, or if you are in a space that might lead you to a yelling match. It is okay to take a break to calm down if you need it.

2. Reflect. Sometimes we are so focused on getting our point across, we tend to listen to respond rather than listen to hear. This may sound silly but if you can paraphrase what the other person said to make sure you got the message they were trying to convey, it can clear up a lot of misunderstandings and make the other person actually feel heard.

3. Focus. Arguments can revert back to past issues and become bigger than they need to become. If this is happening, that means that those issues were never really resolved so the other person, or even you, are bringing them up now because they are still an issue. It is better not to hash out old issues, but sometimes we need closure in order to move forward. Try to figure out what the emotion behind the message is, and convey that you can understand that rather than trying to "fix" the issue.

4. Use I statements. Yes, this is annoying, but if we don't use these, it can make the other person become defensive and they won't be able to hear what you are trying to say. "You interrupted me again! You never listen to me!" Sounds very different than, "I feel unheard when you start to talk while I am talking. I would really like you to hear what I have to say."

5. Pay attention to body language. Most of what we are saying does not come out of our mouths. It has to do with body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. These cues can help you be able to respond more effectively. With that being said, this is why arguing over text can be so explosive. Best to wait to discuss big topics in person.

6. Never underestimate the power of an apology. You don't have to apologize for what you did if you do not think you were wrong; however, apologizing for the impact it had on the other person is important, especially if your intention wasn't to hurt them.

7. Write it out. It isn't always easy to formulate your thoughts/feelings when you are in the middle of the issue. It can be helpful to write it out and get a better idea of where you are. It can also help to give it to the other person and have them read it. When we are reading, we have to understand what is written in order to discuss it; whereas, when we are talking face to face, people can sometimes listen to respond instead of to understand. It can also give the other person time to process what you are saying, which makes the conversation later on a little more productive. However, make sure that you are referring to number 4 on this list if you are giving them the letter, or it can create more defensivenss and intensify the issue.

8. Sometimes it isn't you, and sometimes it is. We can react to the other person because of how they can make us feel like we did in another time in our lives (normally an unfavorable time). It's important to pay attention to that as well as how we are talking to ourselves during the argument. Self talk can have a huge impact on mood. Other times there may be an unresolved or un-diagnosed mental health issue that may be the culprit. If that is the case, it may be time to reach out to a professional for help.

Remember, it took you a long time to get to this place with the person you are arguing with, so give yourself time to get out of it. It will take a lot of effort, patience, and time; but if you are both willing to put it in, you can get to a place where you are communicating better.

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