Step 1: Change the tone of your voice
When two people are arguing, tempers are rising, hurtful words are flying, and each person wants to be “right.” Nothing tempers the rising animosity quicker than one person changing their tone of voice. This may sound easier said than done in the heat of the moment, but if you can remember to breathe deeply and calm down your tone of voice, the person on the other half of the argument is likely to match your tone.
Step 2: Agree to take a time out
Once voices are calmer and the two of you have a break in the conversation, be the bigger person and suggest a time out. A time out gives both participants in the argument a chance to breathe and to readdress the issue from a calm standpoint. Agree on a time limit that works for you both and come back at the designated time to readdress the issue calmly. It might help for one or both of you to step outside and get some fresh air, or take a short walk (but try not to drive.) If you’re angry, driving aggressively is dangerous and will just serve to aggravate the situation more.
Step 3: Remember the basics of respectful communication
In an argument, no matter what the argument seems to be about, the underlying issue is usually a need to be heard by both parties. It’s important to give the person you are arguing with fair time to state their case without interruption, actively listen and reiterate what you understand. (For example, using words like “what I hear you saying is”) with a calm, open, and accepting attitude. If the other person feels they are understood, and it is your turn to speak, choose your words carefully and with consideration to the sensitivity of the subject being discussed.
Step 4: Compromise, compromise, compromise
No two people are exactly the same, and that’s the beauty of human relationships. When it comes down to it, there are going to be issues in every relationship that the two of you will never fully agree on – and that’s okay. Part of getting to know someone is learning what they will or will not tolerate, how they perceive things the same or differently from you and the manner in which they need to be spoken to. If the issue at hand is one that seems unsolvable, a possible solution is agreeing to disagree, unless of course, the issue is unacceptable behavior. The compromise needed may just be to learn how to disagree successfully. Disrespectful or insulting language is never okay and is an absolute unequivocal deal-breaker.
If the issue is one in which a compromise can be reached, each party will need to learn to compromise by giving a little from either side in order to reach a happy medium. Remember the four horseman of the apocalypse in any relationship: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. Learning to compromise outside of these 4 attitudes will direct your relationship forward in a healthy way.
Step 5: Apologize and Forgive
No one walks away from an argument without having their feelings hurt at least a little bit. It’s never fun to heatedly disagree with someone we care about, and for the harsh words that may have been spoken, apologies are always welcome. The same goes for Forgiveness. We are all human beings in the long run and we are guilty of speaking out of turn and using words we don’t mean a time or two in our lives. When we care enough about someone to want to move forward with them happily, there are no better gifts than sincere apologies and forgiveness. Always remember though, that forgiveness means the issue is done and is not stored away as ammunition for future arguments.
With these steps in mind, we can strengthen our relationships and our trust in other people. And that ability is irreplaceable.