How to Defuse an Argument
Most people become challenged and confronted on occasion by others who differ in their opinions and who desire and are determined to argue. This could be about almost anything and with almost anyone, including our most intimate partners, family members, social acquaintances or colleagues.
It is wise for both parties who enter into arguments to be able to defuse them and dissolve their anger toward each other in a relatively efficient and respectful manner. It is wise to cool down and become calmer so you can return to interacting civilly with the people you previously argued with.
Unresolved and undissolved arguments weigh heavily, both mentally and physically, on both parties. Sustained arguments can initiate a fight-or-flight response, which can take its toll on both parties’ immune systems and overall well-being.
When you find yourself entering into an argument, you may consider the following ideas and action steps to dissolve it and mitigate its effects.
- Look within. It is not what others do or say or even what happens to you that is crucial. It is about how you perceive it and what you decide to do with or about it. To have a heated and lasting argument takes two people who stubbornly desire to be right, who are taking a firm or rigid stance and who are projecting their uniquely biased and probably limited opinions onto each other. Being right seldom leads to resolution — being understanding and resilient to alternative views does. Flexible dialogues work more effectively than rigid and alternating monologues.
- Give yourself a little bit of space and a brief moment of time to calm down your initial emotional reactions. Step back and take inventory of what has actually initiated the argument. This can allow you to ask yourself some quality questions about your involvement and the reasons for and purpose of the argument. It is wiser to become poised and dance than to remain stuck in an irrational stance. If two people are exactly the same, one of them is unnecessary. Ask yourself:
- What specifically are they doing, not doing, saying, or not saying that is initiating your emotional anger response and your desire to remain in an argument with them and be right? What role are you playing in initiating what they are doing or saying?
- Where and when have you acted, stated, or believed in a same or similar manner? Who has observed you doing this? By identifying where and when you have acted in the same manner, it calms down extreme degrees of self-righteousness and denial. Looking at your own role is more fruitful and can add meaning and flexibility.
- How is their side of the argument serving you? How could hearing what they have to say benefit you? There are many opinions and yours is just one of them. Being right is not always the wisest approach to human interactions. Listening and learning about alternative viewpoints can help expand our awareness and possibly social influence. Being a quality listener pays dividends. Listening carefully before we speak opens doorways of greater communication.
- Who is agreeing with and supporting your side at the same time they desire to argue with you? We draw in people to argue with us when we are puffed up and exaggerating our position in life. The arguer is actually helping us go deeper into our true nature and develop greater equanimity within and equity between ourselves and others.
- If at the moment they argued with you, they suddenly turned around and completely agreed with you, what would be the drawbacks and downsides? It is unwise to assume that others are there only to support us. We sometimes hold fantasies about how life is supposed to be instead of facing the true and balanced beauty of how life actually is. If everyone agreed with us, we could become stagnant and remain trapped in our delusive fantasy world. We often do not fully grow until we also become challenged. We require similarities and differences, cooperation and competition, likes and dislikes and agreements and disagreements to adapt and grow within society. We require both sides of the magnet to have magnetism.
- Stop and reflect. Go for a walk. Meditate and to become calm and centered before further reacting. Transcending emotional reactions with a more objective, expanded and reasonable viewpoint can take the heat out of extreme emotional stances. Governing yourself is the starting point for bringing resolution with others.
- Communicate your views in terms of their highest values. People are dedicated to fulfilling their own highest values, not necessarily ours. When they perceive that you are communicating in a way that helps them fulfill what is most meaningful and important to them, they calm down and become receptive and more attentively listen. Help them fulfill what they desire and they in turn will soften their stance and turn around to assist with what you desire.
- Learn to agree to disagree and still respect others’ opinions. By concentrating on any components you do agree with, it softens others’ reactions. Identify similarities as well as differences. Maximum growth and development occurs at the border of similarities and differences, supports and challenges, agreements and disagreements.
Before letting your arguments get out of hand, understand the balancing act of human nature. Help yourself and others return to equanimity, appreciation and love. Being able to say ‘thank you’ lets you know that your argument is resolved.
Demartini, J. (2015). How to Defuse an Argument. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-defuse-an-argument/