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How to Argue to Show Respect Not Just to Win

Sep 5, 2023 | Couples Therapy

Arguing with your intimate partner is inevitable.   All couples have conflict at one time or another.  No relationship is perfect, even if you wish that was so.  Life brings up conflicts and hard times that will challenge you in moments when you may not act like your best self.  Everyone acts in ways that hurt others, even unintentionally, at one time or another.  

There are definite risks to arguing.  Arguing gets you vulnerable and being vulnerable is uncomfortable.  Being vulnerable may cause you to put up walls to protect yourself from emotional pain.  You may find yourself trying to prove your point so that your partner understands how wrong you feel they’ve been. You may notice you are lashing out to keep yourself from feeling guilty about what you may have done to cause the conflict.  If you find yourself putting up walls or lashing out, this is a sign you are arguing defensively rather than respectfully.

Bringing respect into your conflicts leads to deepening your relationship.  Respecting means you value your relationship more than you value winning an argument.  Respecting brings quality and deep love and meaning to your life with your partner.    

To argue respectfully you need to be in control of your words and your actions during the argument.  Here are some ways to control all the turmoil that may be going on in the moment of the argument. 

  1. Bring up only one thing that is bothering you at a time.  Talking about only one thing gives you the chance to keep the argument focused and free from all the complications that happen when you talk about a million things at once.  Staying focused helps things get resolved more quickly.  
  2. Take a pause and breathe.  Even though you may be filled with anger and frustration, and your heart is pounding, remember to breathe.  Taking a breath allows you to slow down, if only for a second, and reconnect to your body.  Allowing a second to breathe helps you calm yourself and get a bit of control over your body and your rapid thoughts. 
  3. Choose your words carefully.  Speak from your heart using statements like “I feel … when you …”  For example, “I feel disrespected when you walk away from the table without cleaning up your dishes.”  Point out what your partner is doing that is bothering you.  Talk about their behaviour, not their character.  For example, “I feel lonely when you leave me alone at a party where I don’t know anyone” rather than saying “You’re inconsiderate and mean when we go to parties”.  
  4. Honour boundaries.  Ask your partner if now is a good time to talk.  If they say no, then accept that and ask when would be a good time.  Waiting until your partner is free and able to focus and ready to open up will go a long way to arguing with respect. 
  5. Be aware of what you value in your relationship.  Keep what you value in mind even when you argue with your partner.  If you value respect and understanding, then keep your tone even and respectful when you are talking with your partner.  If you value understanding, give your partner a chance to explain their behaviour and let them know you understand before you share how that behaviour may have hurt you.  
  6. Notice what’s happening within your body while you are in the midst of the argument.  Scan through your body to notice where you are holding tension, how your heart is beating, how your breathing is flowing.  Noticing what’s going on inside you gives you information on how you are reacting so you have the chance to calm things down.  
  7. Keep one thing that you love about your partner in mind when you are arguing.  Often you feel so upset that all you can think about is how hurt you are.  Opening yourself to think of one positive thing about your partner while you are arguing can help you see the bigger picture and act more respectfully.

Arguing Respectfully Takes Practice

Doing any of the tips above takes practice and it helps to not expect you can do them all at once in the beginning.   Pick one to work on at a time and add more tips over time.  Discuss with your partner which tip they might want to practice so you are both increasing your respect for each other.  

If you find your arguments growing more and more dis-respectful and you’ve tried everything without things getting better between you and your partner, you may need to reach out for help.  You can reach out for couples counselling at this link.

Have questions or are interested in exploring counselling with Transforming Tides Counselling? 

Click this link to book a free twenty minute phone consultation.  In this consultation you can start to get to know your therapist and explore what working with them would be like. 

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