How to Have Arguments That Don't Spoil Relationships

Signs you're good at resolving conflicts with colleagues and family.

How to Have Arguments That Don't Spoil Relationships
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Signs you're good at resolving conflicts with colleagues and family.

Time for some honesty: What skill do you believe you need the most working on?

For me, it's conflict resolution.

Recently in an interview, Ryan Reynolds, famous for playing Deadpool, said that the one skill that has been the true game changer for him is his conflict resolution skill. But before entering a conflict, you must understand where the other person comes from.

“You can’t address problems with other people unless you understand them,” — Ryan Reynolds, Insider.

To move ahead in life without alienating the people close to you, every person needs to work on conflict resolution.

In this post, I will share five steps to resolving conflicts in your personal and professional spheres. Let's move one step closer to handling disagreements better. For a more candid take, check out my video on better conflict resolution techniques.

1. You accept you might be wrong

This sounds simple. But it can get absurdly hard to admit your mistake when you have a fragile ego.

Research suggests that people who get offended easily use the term "psychological rigidity" as a defense mechanism. They fear facing the consequences of admitting mistakes, like being seen as weak or losing in the conflict. For them, standing their ground is the only way to protect themselves.

“When people are constitutionally unable to admit they’re wrong, when they cannot tolerate the very notion that they are capable of mistakes, it is because they suffer from an ego so fragile that they cannot sulk and get over it — they need to warp their very perception of reality and challenge obvious facts in order to defend their not being wrong in the first place.” — Guy Winch Ph.D., Why Some People Will Never Admit They’re Wrong

If you want to learn how to resolve conflicts better, the first step is acknowledging that you might be wrong. Accept that you're at fault, and convey this to the person you have the conflict with.

2. You're okay agreeing to disagree

Not agreeing with someone doesn't mean that they're wrong. Parallel realities can exist at the same time.

When you're in an argument, your goal shouldn't be to prove your point is right. Instead, you should argue to reach a common ground. Agreeing to disagree is a decent place to end the conflict.

Try to establish that you'll respect your opponent's opinion before the argument starts. This signals that you're willing to listen and not impose your will on the other person.

As conflict transformation specialist Melody Stanford Martin writes in Psychology Today,

“I recommend agreeing to disagree before the conversation starts. It can be incredibly helpful to begin a conversation with, “Yes, I will talk about this difficult subject with you. But how about we decide beforehand not to try to change each other’s minds?””

3. You remain calm during arguments

Sometimes, even when we choose words carefully, we forget to focus on how others interpret them. As UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian asserts in his book Silent Messages, about 55% of what we say is communicated through body language and facial expressions.

Whenever you speak, don't lose your temper. Don't show derogatory body language like eye rolling or sighing deeply. Be calm and patient in your outward appearance.

As Zeyneb Ilgaz writes in Get to the heart of workplace conflict by reading body language, here are some tips to remain physically calm during conflicts:

  • Nod your head gently to convey you understand.
  • Don't clench your fists or point fingers.
  • Keep the muscles around your forehead and eyes smooth and relaxed.
  • Breathe slowly, and avoid crossing your arms.
  • Don't point your feet away from the other person or toward an exit. These movements indicate you're not interested in the conversation.

4. You argue with empathy

To truly listen to your opponent's point of view, you must understand where they come from. This will help you better analyze their motivations and predict what drives them.

In a conflict, there's no winning or losing. Both parties put forward their points and reach a mutually agreed-upon compromise.

Only when you reach a common ground can you move ahead from the conflict and think of what lies next for both parties. This helps you look ahead without burning bridges.

Klimecki (2019) writes, “Empathy and compassion have been associated with more favorable attitudes and higher readiness for reconciliation across a range of intergroup settings.”

5. You focus on moving ahead

Picture something that cannot be resolved, but you still want a cordial relationship with the person moving forward. In such a case, a different conflict resolution approach must be applied.

Playing the blame game only portrays the other person as a villain. It's better that you move towards a solution you both agree on. Ask yourself and the other person questions like:

  • What are you going to do next?
  • What do you feel more inclined towards: forgive and be cautious or forgive and forget?
  • How do you see your future despite this?
  • What can they do to make you feel better (or the other way around, depending on the context)?

Based on your answers, you can train your brain to look at the future with a positive outlook. There's hope that it can end the conflict on a good note. You don't have to let bitterness come into your heart for the other person for doing something you didn't appreciate.

Final words: 5 signs you're good at conflict resolution

Summarizing, here are the five signs you're an excellent debater and can resolve conflicts in your personal and professional space:

  1. You know when it's time to acknowledge your mistake and apologize.
  2. You're open to allowing space for contrarian opinions to exist.
  3. You remain calm in your words and bodily gestures when you argue.
  4. You try to understand the opponent's motivations and argue with empathy.
  5. You don't blame the other person. Instead, you focus on moving ahead from the conflict without letting bitterness take root in your heart.

These steps require a high level of emotional intelligence and maturity. But I don't think these are skills you're born with. They are something you can work on. With the right professional help and proper resources, you can venture on this path toward better conflict resolution.

How did you like this post? Please do let me know your thoughts in the comments. If you know someone who can benefit from reading about something like this, share this article with them.

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