How to Deal With Arguments That End Badly

Some arguments end in shouting and unfortunate words. What can you do to heal the wounds of these verbal clashes? How can you recover a relationship after an argument? Here are some guidelines.
How to Deal With Arguments That End Badly
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 13 June, 2023

Most of us have experienced arguments that end badly. The kinds that keep us away from certain people. Opposing ideas, misunderstandings, emotions taken to the extreme, and words that perhaps should never have been spoken. Arguing causes many situations to emerge that can’t be controlled at the time and that, later, we usually regret.

What can be done in these kinds of situations? Is there any strategy for closing wounds after one of these unfortunate encounters? Often, it’s said that with willpower and good intention, anything can be repaired. However, in practice, this idea from popular wisdom isn’t always fulfilled. A difficult argument has consequences… words that won’t be forgotten and emotions that are difficult to digest.

Sometimes, after a heated argument, you might want to approach the other party but don’t know how to start, what to do, and what to say. Before you know it, the days have passed and you find you’ve lost your friendship or relationship with that colleague or family member forever. So, let’s find out what strategies you can use in these situations.

Man worried about arguments ending badly

Arguments that end badly, what can you do?

Throughout your life, you’ve learned how to read, solve quadratic equations, hold conversations in other languages, and even identify whether certain architectures are Gothic or Romanesque. However, you’ve never been taught the art of arguing. That’s why you often end up shouting in the middle of an argument like a three-year-old.

The writer André Gidé used to say that discussions only amplify misunderstandings. This isn’t true. In fact, in reality, an argument is more of a communicative process in which the interlocutors hold opposing ideas. If you knew how to master your emotions, express yourself assertively, and were more skillful when it comes to solving your problems, your arguments wouldn’t end badly.

As a matter of fact, arguing isn’t a problem. In fact, it’s always positive to exchange different points of view and enrich yourself with the opinions of others. It only becomes complicated when you feel challenged by different viewpoints. That’s when you lose control and your emotions dominate you more than reason.

What can you do in these circumstances? How should you react to arguments that end badly?

Time to meditate: to save or not to save the relationship

If an argument has ended inappropriately, ideally, you should give yourself some time. You don’t need much. In fact, 24 hours is enough time for you to think. Your instincts might prompt you to want to repair the relationship as soon as possible. But, you shouldn’t rush. Think about the following:

  • Own and third-party responsibility. Are you responsible for the fact that the argument ended badly? What did you handle well and what did you deal with badly? Are you both to blame? You must be able to reflect on your own mistakes and responsibility as much or more as on those of others. Only by doing this will you develop self-awareness.
  • Have you had more than one bad argument with a specific person? Some people constantly use aggressive communication. They tend not to listen and argue just for the sake of it or to prove themselves right. If this is the case, figure out whether you want to recover the relationship.

After reflecting on these two points, you can make the decision either to make contact with them again or move on.

Say sorry and listen

In recent years, studies on conflict resolution have suggested the need for certain communication techniques and strategies for reaching agreements. A study conducted by the University of Tel Aviv (Israel), highlights the role of emotional regulation. They claim that this should be the first step toward rapprochement. Therefore, when resolving an argument, it’s important to master your emotions.

  • Say you’re sorry. Do it in a calm and balanced way. Don’t show anger, resentment, or discomfort.
  • Communicate the fact that you want to make amends and start listening to each other.

Focus on the here and now

An argument that ends badly needs fixing. But, the last thing you need is to go over it again. If you want to recover your relationship, you must avoid reproaching the other party for what they said or did. Going over the argument will only ignite the same negative emotions again. Don’t do it.

Instead, you must focus on the present moment. Give yourself new opportunities, forgive each other, and explain that many of the words spoken were the product of your emotions, but not of the desire to cause any harm.

girls talking trying to solve arguments that end badly

Some arguments end badly and people

When you go through a heated argument, the kind that ends badly after several exchanged reproaches, shouting, and ultimatums, two things usually happen. The first is that you end up feeling angry for a few hours. The second is that you try to repair the situation. You can do it by reflecting on the strategies that might allow you to save your relationship and come to some agreement.

Here are some basic guidelines that’ll help you improve and turn your arguments into an art form:

  • Listen to the other person with interest.
  • Show empathy.
  • Repeat some of their phrases to show them that you’re listening.
  • Specify the points on which you differ. However, also keep in mind the aspects on which you do agree. This is always a good starting point.
  • Make assertive proposals. Also, listen to their suggestions.
  • Create bridges. Focus on solving the problem, not on being right.
  • Control your emotions such as anger.
  • Accept the fact that, sometimes, it’s not possible to reach an agreement. But, this doesn’t have to end your relationship. You can simply agree to disagree.

Finally, few subjects are as important for coexistence as knowing how to communicate, understanding how to solve problems, and mastering the communicative competence of arguing. Knowing how to do so can be extremely enriching.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.