How to Become Better at Arguing

· August 13, 2018

We have grown up in a culture of constant arguing, where we’re often grumpy about everything and don’t accept a difference of opinions. We argue about something almost every day, and we often do it more than once. First thing in the morning, we argue with the delivery man that has parked in front of our garage. At noon, we fight with our son for zoning out on his phone during lunch. Then, we may argue with our friend who forgot to call us, and, to wrap things up, we end up yelling to our partner that night before bed.

It’s true that arguing takes up a lot of our time, but is it actually helpful? Is it good or bad to have so many disagreements? Is it possible to argue without getting into a fight?

Arguing brings us closer to others

Most people believe that arguing involves fighting with the other person, going beyond disagreeing and yelling, humiliating, disrespecting, or disqualifying one another. However, taking into account Merriam Webster’s definition of the word, we can clearly see how the concept requires:

  • Giving reasons for or against something
  • Considering the pros and cons of (something)
  • Proving (or try to prove) by giving reasons
Two people arguing healthily.

In this way, arguing involves two or more people dealing with an issue in a detailed way, listening to each other’s position, and going over opposing viewpoints accordingly. As you can see, the concept of arguing has nothing to do with any hostile confrontation. Going back to the core of the word’s definition, to argue means to exchange and discuss opinions about a particular topic, in an effort for the parties involved to communicate.

“Many shout and argue until the other remains silent. They believe they have convinced the other. And they are always mistaken.”

-Noel Clarasó-


Arguing implies dealing with our differences

So, is arguing beneficial for our relationships? In general, we avoid having confrontations with others. Nonetheless, human relations require interaction, and this means understanding that each individual has their own way of thinking and acting. Often, this might pose a problem, since we can easily fall into the pattern of expecting others to act or think in the same way as we do.

Expectations about other people’s behavior, as well as value judgments regarding what is right and wrong, lead us to non-constructive confrontation. Expecting others to act the way we’d like them to or simply waiting for others to change their point of view sets a disrespectful communication environment, which only makes relationships more complicated. This is true because, instead of accepting whoever is in front of us, what we do is demand the other person to be and behave in accordance with our own beliefs. It’s important to understand that there’s nothing wrong with having a difference of opinion.

Advantages of arguing appropriately

It’s important to highlight the two main advantages that come from arguing according to the given definition. They are the following:

  • Avoiding social isolation: arguing means establishing communication and all types of communication implies creating a relationship as well. We are social beings and, as such, we need to have relationships with others in order to be emotionally healthy. What is more, we have the right to express our opinions and be respected for it.
  • Enriching our points of view: arguing in a fluid way allows us to open up our mindsets. Sharing different opinions, far from pulling us apart, lets us put ourselves in our counterpart’s shoes, giving us a different perspective. Although this doesn’t mean others will change their opinion, sharing these differences brings us closer and makes reaching agreements easier. Simply understanding our counterpart’s position, along with all the emotions and attitudes it entails, requires a significant level of personal growth.

“Let us always be aware to contradict without obstinacy and be contradicted without irritation.”

-Marcus Tullius Cicero-

A couple arguing.

How to handle arguments

Most problems in our relationships are due to a lack of acknowledgment of each other’s way of being. Arguing allows us to make room for different opinions and perspectives.

It’s not always easy to deal with people who disagree with our way of thinking or behaving. The key lies in knowing how to express our thoughts and managing the feelings that arise from conflict.

When arguing, it’s essential to avoid being passive or aggressive in our responses, as well as respecting and being respected. This implies a constant effort in building healthy boundaries with whom we relate. But then again, how can we express our point of view while respecting the other person’s? There are three key aspects that will make you handle arguments more easily:

Active and reciprocal listening

To maintain a dialogue, listening is crucial. Interrupting, judging, disqualifying, and rejecting what the other feels completely eliminates the possibility of understanding them. Because of this, paying attention to body language is important, as the emotional charge of messages is often transmitted through our gestures. Mismatches between verbal and non-verbal language can give us a lot of information. Also, it’s important to silence our minds when someone is speaking to us. We should avoid thinking about what we will reply once they stop talking, since that will stop us from fully listening to the message in question.

Assertiveness

Assertiveness is the capacity to express our convictions without either offending the other person or submit to their will. It implies the direct and balanced expression of our thoughts and emotions through self-trust, and without letting other emotional states (like anxiety, anger, or guilt) limit us. Being assertive requires responding by defending our rights, without adopting a passive, aggressive and/or imposing attitude.

Empathy

It’s the ability to perceive, share, and understand what the other person might think or feel. Empathy allows for deep communication to take place, as well as the connection between the personal states of those participating in the argument. As a result, selfish and polarized positions are prevented, since you can value what the other is feeling.

Empathy after arguing.

Undoubtedly, the solution for relationship conflicts is not to avoid arguing, but to be able to manage differences through mature confrontation. The first step is to assume that we don’t hold the absolute truth and aren’t entirely right about any fact or situation. 

“The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.”

-Joseph Antoine René Joubert-