Yep, we’ve all been there. A small comment your loved one says turns into an escalated debate, which then turns into a full-blown argument. Sometimes, we’re so focused on getting our point across or just trying to be heard that we don’t stop to evaluate and interrogate the situation. Better yet, we don’t stop to evaluate and interrogate ourselves. Here are three questions that you can ask yourself in the middle of an argument that may change the outcome of the debate.
1. Are you focused on proving you’re right or on trying to understand?
You’ve heard it before — there’s a difference between listening to understand and listening to respond or provide a rebuttal. When you’re only focused on trying to prove you’re right, your ego often dictates your responses. Your responses are full of anger, frustration, and other emotions because your loved one just isn’t understanding that you’re right. How can they not understand, right? I’ll tell you why. When you listen to understand the other person’s perspective, you’re more compassionate and willing to be open-minded. As a result, your loved one will recognize your compassion, and they too will change their focus as well. Once both parties reach a common goal of trying to understand, a more productive conversation emerges.
2. Did it really happen that way, or did I let my emotions allow me to jump to conclusions?
Y’all, I’m so guilty of doing this, and my husband will be the first to tell you (sorry, Bub). Let me paint a picture for you. My husband will say something like, “Dang, you drank all of the water,” in a tone of voice that makes me believe he’s mad at me or has an attitude. That one comment rubs me the wrong way, and I’ll be in my feelings the entire afternoon instead of asking if he’s mad at me or if he has an attitude. So now, I’m in my feelings, he recognizes that I’m in my feelings and gets upset because I blew the situation out of proportion, and now we’re arguing.
It really limits the number of arguments you have with your loved one when you stop and ask the person, “Hey, what did you mean when you said XYZ?” or “You sound upset at me — are you?” Something as simple as that can prevent an argument from even happening in the first place, and it’s much easier than assuming the wrong thing.
3. Have I apologized yet for the things I’ve said or done?
Do you remember in elementary school, they would teach us to say sorry when we were being mean to a classmate? They make you apologize and hug, and then all is forgiven as you play on the playground together. Things were much simpler back then, right? Right, but that doesn’t mean that things can never be this simple again.
In the middle of an argument, ask yourself have you apologized for any hurtful or mean things that you said or did that may have upset your loved one? Have you apologized for the way that your words or actions made that person feel? Sometimes, a sincere and meaningful apology can begin to ease the tension immediately and set you both on the path to peace. An apology makes your intentions clear that you did not mean to hurt the other person, and taking ownership and responsibility for your wrongdoings can potentially better your relationship altogether. An apology truly does go a long way.
Arguments can get so heated so quickly; one minute everything is fine, and the next thing you know, you’re raising your voice in frustration. Sometimes if the argument is starting to get really bad, it may be difficult to even see an end to all of it. Well, we’ve all been there, and I can assure you that taking a moment to interrogate yourself is a great way to get one step closer to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
So, next time you’re in an argument, I hope that you will remember this blog post. Remember to focus on trying to understand your loved one rather than trying to be heard in the argument. Remember to not let your emotions control you to the point where you’re making assumptions without checking the facts. Lastly, and equally as important, own up to your mistakes and apologize for what you may have said or done. Check yourself, and you’ll become a better person overall because of it.
“The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.”
– Joseph Joubert