Ways That We Can Disagree Respectfully Without Fighting

Let’s be honest, as long as human beings walk the earth, there will be arguments. Seen often as a flaw in a relationship, arguments can actually play a beneficial role in strengthening our connections. According to Jennifer A. Samp Ph.D. “… the need to argue with a close other can be energizing and motivating (the topics that are at the heart of the argument could indeed be at the heart of the cause) bring about arguments remind us of what is important to us, from our core values to our goals for a given day.” Knowing how to argue respectfully can be a crucial part of maintaining healthy friendships and partnerships. We’ve put together a list of 5 things to consider while disagreeing that will de-escalate the tension and bring you closer to resolution.

  1. Take Responsibility (Where Possible)

The goal of a healthy argument should not be to “win” but rather to understand why we are upset in the first place. We must take a moment to reflect on how our actions may have affected others, and in doing so, we can opt to take responsibility. It takes a strong individual to stand up and say “I’m wrong” and the right partner/friend will only respect you for it. After all, it is what we expect and intricately need from our significant others. Accepting the blame can be a hard pill to swallow at first, but it will only serve to improve your connection. Everybody wins when we approach our relationships with humility and honesty.

2. Be Respectful – Argue With Integrity

Although tempting, “going for the jugular” can only lead to further destruction. We can not take back the words that come out of our mouths in the heat of the moment, and they can cause irreparable damage to our relationships. Humiliating the other person will not make us feel any better about ourselves. Rather than devolving into name-calling, our best bet is to be vulnerable and let the other person know how we feel if we are hurt, we have should let the other person know. In being vulnerable, we permit our partners to as well.  Being honest about how we feel can be incredibly disarming. 

3. Pay Attention

Sometimes the most powerful thing we can do is listen. Listening allows us to have a higher degree of empathy for our partners and friends; it will enable us to see things from their perspective. We may not always agree with the other person, but taking the time to hear them out shows them that we value their experiences. Allow each partner the requisite time and process they need to truly feel heard, and work through their issues. This can go a long way towards healing and reconciliation. The more we listen, the better we communicate, and hence facilitating our growth.

4. Ask Questions

It is never a great idea to assume, in the immortal words of 50 Cent, “If you don’t know, you better ask somebody!”. Assumptions lead us down the path of miscommunication. According to Harley Therapy Counselling, “If you are always assuming you know how others think and feel, you stop listening and communicating and leave them feeling trapped or misunderstood.”. By asking questions, let the other person know that we desire to understand their frustration.

5. Let Go Of Resentments

It is easy to hang on to our resentments long after an argument is over, but resentment serves no one. We can not truly move on if we are carrying around yesterday’s bitterness. Even though it may seem counter-intuitive, forgiveness is an act of kindness towards ourselves. Steven Stosny, Ph.D., says, “It keeps us locked in a devalued state, wherein it’s extremely difficult to improve or appreciate or to connect positively with people in general.” It is important to note that not every action deserves forgiveness, but once we decide to continue our relationships, we have to learn to let go. 

Not every argument can be a fruitful interaction. Even when we do everything ”right,” we are only half of the equation. But the potential to walk away from a dispute having learned something about another person is worth making an effort. In taking the time to reflect on how we interact in a conflict, we create an opportunity to learn something about ourselves.