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How to prevent an argument from escalating

Tags: Arguing better, stopping arguments, how to stop an argument escalating
Featured in Microsite: Men's microsite

We all have little arguments with our partner from time to time. Someone forgets to clean up after themselves, someone loses the remote control to the TV or someone still owes money for last week’s groceries. These little conflicts are a normal part of life.

However, these arguments have a nasty tendency of evolving from something relatively small into something huge and unmanageable. A seemingly harmless argument over whose turn it is to hoover the carpets can suddenly escalate into an all-out war.

When these arguments occur, they can take us by surprise and leave us feeling upset and vulnerable. Luckily, by learning the following skills, you can de-escalate the argument and prevent it from turning into a bitter brawl.

Stay calm

We often lose control in the heat of the moment and our emotions take over. Take control of your emotions by stopping and counting to ten in your head. Relax your shoulders and breathe deeply.  Once you’ve calmed down, try and get your thoughts in order and figure out what you’re trying to say. It may seem odd to suddenly stop in an argument and start doing this, so tell your partner that you need to leave the room and calm down in private.

Don’t Retaliate

It’s easy for us to fight back and say hurtful things to people in an argument. However, by doing this you’re only going to make things worse. Your partner will probably react to this by hurling insults back at you and it will go into a downward spiral. If your partner says something nasty during the argument, hold your tongue.

Use ‘I’ not ‘You’

Talk about how you feel, don’t make assumptions about your partner and tell them what they think or feel. By making assumptions about what’s going on inside your partner’s head, you’re bound to make them feel even more aggravated.

Above all: Listen

Show respect to your partner during the argument and listen to what he or she has to say. By doing this, they are more likely to listen to you. Disregarding your partner’s comments or not paying attention to them can wind them up more, so concentrate on what they have to say, even if you don’t agree with what it is.

To see how these skills can be put into action and to find out how you and your partner can improve your arguing techniques, why not try theCoupleConnection’s free online course? Click here to try the How to Argue Better course today.

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  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    I have to say that at these times you mention when she is screaming, it sounds to me as if she is in great pain. What happens when you try to hold her? Tenderly? Offer to listen while she tells you what is wrong? She might use counselling to good effect.

    Tue 17, Jun 2014 at 4:56pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    PS - staying calm does not work either! She just becomes infuriated even more and accuses me of being cold and not caring. No matter how carefully modulated the tone of voice is, she sees calm as lack of caring about the subject. To her screaming and raging indicates engagement and commitment, anything less than that and "you don't care". Of course, she totally fails to see that screaming and raging means she alienates me and prevents her from hearing anything.

    Is this a person with an anger management issue? I believe so, but would value other perspectives

    Tue 17, Jun 2014 at 12:17pm
  • User-anonymous BlueSearcher Flag

    Using "I" does not work with my partner!!!!!

    If you do this to tell her how you feel her response is greater anger and a statement along the lines of " you make everything about you, you are so arrogant and self interested"

    Tue 17, Jun 2014 at 12:13pm