How To De-escalate And Resolve Arguments

May 29, 2017 | All, Environment, Network, Relationships

Arguments suck. The word “argument” alone has such negative connotations. At the base of it all, arguments happen because the involved parties hold opposing views and/or desired outcomes. But they can be a great opportunity to evolve a relationship, whether in love or in business.

The biggest mistake people make, and why they lose even when they win the argument, is because they have the wrong intention: They want to be right. The thing is, when you’re right, then you make the other party wrong.

“Right and wrong” is a game of the ego, not the game of prosperity or gain. If you want to truly win an argument, put your ego aside and seek to understand.

The next time you find yourself in an argument, remember these key principles to help you resolve it much more effectively.

 

1. Don’t be in a reactive mode.

Unless you love arguing and you initiated it (which is a totally different problem altogether), finding yourself in an argument probably feels like getting caught off-guard in front of a newly erupted volcano, and a lava of molten words is hurling in your direction. In the moment of surprise, it’s hard to think constructively because you get into defence mode. So take even just five seconds to come back into yourself and regain awareness. The next steps you take should be proactive with a win-win situation in mind, rather than just reactive.

2. Keep it cool.

Not only will staying calm during an argument look much cooler, it also actually dramatically increases your chances of having a win-win outcome. And it’s not just mental – there’s actually physiological science backing the value of keeping your cool. When you get angry, stressed, or anxious, this activates your sympathetic nervous system, and it releases Adrenaline, Cortisol, Norepinephrine (the three major stress hormones) into your bloodstream and prepares your body for a flight, flight or freeze response. Blood rushes into your muscles, secondary bodily functions like digestion and immune system are put on hold, and most importantly higher level thinking is suppressed because you just don’t need it for fighting or running. That’s why when you get all worked up, you cannot think straight, you’re lost for words and you say things you later regret. So keep calm.

3. Stay out of the ring.

When the tension rises, the first thing you need to do is to take a deep breath and de-escalate the situation  with something like “Hold on, okay, let’s talk about this.” Getting worked up only gets you in the ring, and you know how boxing matches end. Both fighters usually end up pretty messed up, and that’s not a win-win.

4. First, seek to understand, then to be understood.

No matter how irrational or unreasonable the points raised by the other party are, if you (only) knew what they know, believe what they believe, or shared the same line of thinking, you’d have the same opinions. It’s very very likely that they are certain they’re doing the right thing and that they’re perfectly reasonable. It’s possible that’s not the case, but you cannot say that until it’s all clear.

So spend a moment to fully understand their reasoning. The fact that you’re taking the time to understand alone can do real magic. Don’t interrupt them. Let them talk. And sometimes when they’re explaining themselves through it, they realise how unreasonable they are. Problem solved.

It’s also possible that they may have a very valid point that you did not see. You can be wrong.

When all is said from their side, say “I appreciate you’re sharing this with me. I’d like to share with you my view on this so you, too, can see where I’m coming from.”

And then you talk. At this point, don’t let them interrupt you; it’s your turn now.

5. Establish common ground.

To build a good foundation for your conversation is to establish what you agree on first. It may be a little, or it may be a lot. Most importantly, this puts you on the same side of the table rather than opposing ones, and that’s a good start. When this happens, make it clear that you’re happy about it (as you should be!). Then isolate what you don’t agree on and find out why.

6. Be clear on what you want.

This is an overarching principle for all of the above. Knowing your objective can dramatically change the direction of the conversation. And if what you want to get out of the argument is to be right, then you’ll lose in one way or another. Is the relationship the priority, or is it the deal? Maybe it’s your values, personal gain or  the greater good? Depending on what the conversation or situation is, it could be any of these things at different times. So consider the situation carefully, and identify what you truly want from it.

It’s not just for you, either. This is a great question to ask everyone involved: “What outcome do you want?” Ideally, you should seek win-win outcome.

There’s always at least a bit of value or truth from both sides. Acknowledge it and build on it.
If there are areas where you cannot settle, propose a compromise or some kind of exchange. It’s only fair that if you’re backing out of some of your demands, the other party should compensate you for that.

So next time you find yourself facing an argument, remember these points. At the very least, you can minimise the damage, and at best, you both walk away with a win.

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