This is the Main Cause of Arguments and Fights

· July 28, 2018

One person never listens. The other one starts to yell. Both of them accuse one another, without providing any arguments. The main cause of arguments and fights is almost always the same, and even more so if it ends up in a meaningless conflict, filled with contempt and pride. We’re talking, of course, about lack of empathy.

Let’s think for a moment about the last time we had a somewhat heated argument. Most of the time, when we start these dynamics that come from having differences, from an attack or criticism, we aim to evidence our truth. We want the other person to see our perspective and show them that they’re wrong, that their perspective is flawed or unfair.

Furthermore, we often encounter another aspect: defensive behavior. Our shield unfolds and we aim to protect ourselves and attack. This is often seen in romantic relationships, in those arguments in which one or both partners start accusing or throwing cheap shots while hiding behind the usual “victim” stance.

“Your state of mind is your fate.”

-Herodotus-

We would solve these fights a lot faster if we practiced that magic word, empathy, more skillfully. Simply trying to take into account the reality of the other person and understanding it would humanize conflicts and make them more useful. However, we always make the same mistake. We get carried away by our emotions and they cloud our judgment, turn off our senses, and create great distances. 


angry owl

Lack of empathy and understanding, the main cause of arguments and fights

We all want to be understood. But the moment someone puts into question certain things about us, either criticize us or debate our “truths”, we see it as a threat. Soon after, our rage peeks through. This is an obvious imbalance in our emotional homeostasis and it doesn’t take long to start arguing.

If we take a quick glimpse at that less scientific and more popular literature about conflict. the first thing we find is the classic article How to win an argumentWe approach our disagreements and arguments as if they were a battlefield. We think there must always be a winner and a loser. It’s time to correct this approach.

The most common origin of arguments and fights doesn’t reside in the fact that the world is filled with narcissists. These kinds of people can’t be reasoned with and are eager to pick a fight. Although they exist, not everyone is like that. The main reason for our disagreements is our lack of understanding of others and the absence of real, practical, and useful empathy. 

colleagues arguing at work

From the moment we understand the other person and discover their reality, we’re more willing to give in and surrender to that reciprocity that leads to enriching agreements. 

It’s very possible you may think this is limited to fights with good intentions. This may be so because, in life, there are often fights that originate from unfairness or from a real offense. However, even in those situations, it’s good to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes to discover that maybe it’s not worth arguing. It might be a waste of time.

Empathy is the best starting-point in any situation. Seeing, feeling, and figuring out the other person and then acting is the best thing to do.

How to reach an understanding

We already know that the main cause of arguments and fights is the misuse of empathy. Therefore, how can we train our empathy to save us from awkward situations and thus reach an agreement? Try these strategies:

  • When we disagree with someone, we must ask ourselves why we feel that way. Delve deeper into why that comment bothered you. Is it an unfair attack or is there some truth to that criticism that you’re not willing to accept?
  • Once we define our own emotional reality and the reason why we’re uneasy, it’s time to do the same with the other person. Make an effort to get into their skin to sense, understand, and discover. Is this an insecure person and that’s why they’re attacking me? Are they mad at something I did in the past and are therefore holding grudges? What they did/said was out of fear of losing me or because they want me to “wake up”?
  • The third step is to compromise. Instead of letting ourselves get carried away by our emotions, choose to control them. Guide your compromise to understanding and don’t place blame nor talk about past fights. You should also avoid actions or words that may make things worse.
couple arguing in a healthy way

We must be capable of calming ourselves down. What’s more, we must learn to show the other person that we’re being empathic and willing to reach an agreement.

This is obviously not easy. It requires time and demands hard “internal” work. Nonetheless, doing it will make us enjoy our relationships a lot more.