By Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW
When you hear the word “argue,” what comes to mind? Screaming, yelling, and throwing things? Will you do anything to avoid an argument because all it leads to is more frustration and negativity? While this may be the scenario that you envision, it doesn't have to be that way. Instead, I like to think of "arguments" as intense and constructive discussions—arguing can even be healthy! In fact, couples that argue have better relationships than those who are "conflict phobic" and ignore their issues.
Below are some strategies that you can use to help turn arguments into constructive conversations.
- Plan out what you want to say. Pick an ideal time and place to argue and decide what you want to say and get out of the conversation.
- Focus on yourself and the present. Focus on the issue at hand as opposed to past pain or issues. Stick to "I" statements instead of "you" statements that target your partner.
An example of a “you” statement: “You are always so lazy and never do the dishes.”
An example of an "I" statement: “I take pride in our home and wish we could distribute the housework more evenly."
When a "you" statement is used, the other person often completely shuts down and tunes out. In contrast, when an "I" statement is used, a positive response is much more likely.
- Negotiate. In a relationship it's impossible for each partner to get everything that they want, so it is important to be open to listening and understanding the needs of your partner. That way you can come up with an equitable solution together.
- Complete the argument. It may sound simple, but so often couples stop mid-argument. The result is that instead of resolving an issue, the argument plays out over and over again. Wouldn't it be nice to have an argument only once? So instead, even when it may be difficult, follow through until the very end.
The take away from all of these strategies is that arguments can be an opportunity to make yourself heard and improve your relationship.
Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW is a therapist in private practice in Manhattan and Brooklyn. If you and your partner need help improving your communication visit cobbpsychotherapy.com to learn more about how therapy can help.