Arguments are inevitable. Can’t avoid them 100% of the time. Under certain circumstances the probability increases a fight is coming. Things like– a bad mood– rough day–or, “oops, I forgot”. Then there are conflicts that blindside you. Everything seems to be going well–good mood–smooth day– and “got it done”. All of a sudden–BAM! A fight explodes from nowhere. Arguments, not handled well end bad. It doesn’t have to be this way. You can disarm an argument and resolve the problem.
Why Disarm Arguments?
They are a buzz kill
Nothing worse than an argument to spoil a good time. I’ve heard couples tell me how planned dinner dates or vacations were ruined due to arguments that were poorly handled. Why allow a dispute to ruin a good time? It doesn’t have to be this way.
They waste valuable assets: time and energy
Have you ever logged how long some of your arguments last? I hear couples talk about going into a “Cold War” for hours or days following an unresolved conflict. When I ask them to tell me what it’s like, they report sleepless nights, feeling upset, and unable to focus on other important matters.
They stockpile and become ammunition for future arguments
Unresolved arguments don’t go away. They are simply stockpiled around the relationship waiting to be reloaded in future conflicts. If you’ve been in a relationship long enough you know what I am talking about.
They are a drain on the relationship
Arguments not handled properly can suck the life out of a couple. Ever notice how quickly your media device drains when you give it a work out? Relationships are no different. Arguments quickly drain your batteries leaving little power for anything else–like quality connection.
They establish patterns of avoidance (a relationship toxin)
Tired of fighting with your spouse/partner? You may like do what most couples do. Avoid each other to avoid a fight. This is not a good sign. Avoidance patterns a toxic to a relationship.
Five Ways To Disarm A Conflict
Get a “quick grip” on yourself
First, check your attitude and approach. Are you amping up? Dial yourself down. You can do this by taking deep breaths and do some internal self-coaching. Here is what I do. “Okay Don, dial down. Now, show respect in how you address the problem.”
Shift your focus from the person to the problem
Arguments don’t have to be “what you did to me” arguments. Another approach is “what it does to us”. Let me illustrate by the following statements in an argument about being late.
What you did to me: “You always do this to me. You’re never on time. Now we are late to the party.”
What it does to us: “When we run late, it stresses me out and can affect our night together. It would help, if in the future if we both agree to pay attention to the time.”
Notice the shift from the person to the problem.
Establish code language
My wife and I have disarmed many arguments by using verbal and non-verbal code language we have developed over time. When one uses the code, it signals the other to respond in a reciprocal manner. Here is some of our code language
Non-verbal: shifting to a calm voice, reaching out for a hand, a note under the door.
Verbals “I don’t like how we are talking now. Can we slow it down?”
“We are not doing a good job right now.”
“I don’t want to fight about this. Do you?”
“Let’s try it again.”
Do you notice the use of “I” and “we” in the code language? It is an excellent means of disarming an argument.
Reboot the discussion
Sometimes when a computer is not working right, a reboot is necessary. If you are in a conflict cycle, stop and ask your partner to reboot the discussion. Agree to simple rules: speak one at a time, listen and validate, try to find common ground.
Own your end of the argument and repair it
This is a no-brainer. However, it is important that both parties own their end of the argument, no matter how small. Couples who don’t repair arguments end up stuck-in-a-rut in an endless loop of conflict. Repair it. Say you’re sorry, Move on. Let me add one more thing. Normalize mistakes in your marriage. You are not perfect. Just agree to work on them and do so.
Benefits of Disarming Conflicts
- More time and energy for the relationship
- Feeling of success as a couple
- You manage your conflicts, not the other way around
- Increases connection and intimacy in the relationship
- Problems are resolved, not stockpiled