“We are never so much disposed to quarrel with others as when we are dissatisfied with ourselves.” – William Hazlitt

Sometimes you just want to pick a fight. You might not even know why you feel so inclined to argue, only that you do. Once the words blurt from your lips, though, it’s hard to take them back without some pain on the part of you or the other person or persons. There’s good reason for the recommendation to think before you speak. Still, what really prompts you to want to quarrel? Is it organic, something external or internal?

To look at why we quarrel it may be instructive to first examine what happens when everything feels great. If you wake up in the morning and eagerly welcome the day, find the positives in life as soon as your feet touch the floor upon getting out of bed, the likelihood that you’ll find yourself prone to picking a fight isn’t very high.

Granted, some unforeseen event could happen — a traffic jam that results in you being late for work, a disagreement over a project, an unexpected bill or bad news — that sours your mood, making you a little more prone to being testy with others. But being able to find the good instead of the bad may outweigh temporary negatives.

On the other hand, when you feel bad about yourself, when you are sad for an extended period, feel like you’ve missed out on life, that you’re destined for failure, that you lack the abilities or intelligence or miss out on lucky opportunities, you might be much more willing to find fault with others – and lash out at them with angry or unkind words.

If one of your goals in life is to maximize your happiness and increase a sense of fulfillment, it might be a good idea to work on those dissatisfied feelings you have about yourself. If you’re unhappy that you don’t know how to do something, one approach might be to take a class or research the subject until you gain more familiarity with it. If what’s troubling you is that you’re always in debt, getting some help to set up a budge or taking on a side job might ease that stress and alleviate the pressure a bit.

Maybe you hate the way you look and would dearly love to feel more positively about yourself. This might be a psychological issue that’s best helped with professional counseling, although trying to get at the root of exactly what the issue is may take some time. In the interim, look at what you really enjoy and do more of that. Be with people you like and spend time outdoors in the sunshine. Eat well-balanced meals and get plenty of sleep. A well-nourished and well-rested body will do wonders for your overall disposition. Quite possibly, such self-care will help you resist the urge to quarrel with others, since you’ll be more pleased with yourself to begin with.

Could it be that you’re in a toxic or unsatisfying relationship and that’s what prompts you to quarrel? When you’re constantly at odds with the person closest to you, you’re more likely to engage in arguments and heated debates. There’s never a clear winner here. Even if you or your partner think you’ve won, you haven’t. The relationship has been diminished and there’s a sour taste left by the disagreement and the behavior associated with quarreling. Most relationships aren’t easily dissolved, however, nor should they be. The key is to find an acceptable middle ground, to agree to disagree, to lay aside hard feelings and find a way to compromise. It may sting to begin with, but the long-term effect that learning to live with each other in mutual respect and love will be well worth the effort.

Here are some other points to keep in mind when you feel you’re about to pick a verbal fight:

  • Words are very powerful. Once spoken, they can never be taken back. Choose what you say carefully, being mindful that they have a lasting effect and one that may not be what you intended.
  • If you can’t suppress the urge to quarrel, put some distance between yourself and the other person. Physically leave the room. Go for a walk. Work on a demanding task or one that completely absorbs you. If the other person seems determined to pursue you, quietly inform him or her that you don’t want to argue, so you’re going to do something else.
  • What about a history of quarreling? Can you work to eliminate some of the hard feelings such argumentativeness caused? While this will take some time, if you are serious about wanting to make amends for your past quarrels, say so. Also, actions speak louder than words. Do something kind for the injured party. Be consistent in displaying appropriate, respectful behavior. This is an instance where time may heal old wounds, so be hopeful and diligent in trying to make things right.