Bob Denny: Not another argument

Published: Friday, September 13, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 13, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.

Did you find yourself caught in another argument? You could say harsh words that will last for years. It’s so hard to just let it go. It never turns out well. No one really wins. You may lose a friend. Would you like a good easy solution? There’s a better way.

An argument is a discussion or debate, with the objective of convincing the other person that your way of thinking is the best way and they’re wrong. Or, do you want to argue about the definition?

Why do we argue? Behavioral psychologists say that we argue in order to achieve the feelings we’ll feel after the encounter. Is your goal to hurt the other, make them feel bad, or to lose self-appreciation? Wouldn’t mutual happiness, cooperation, and well-being be a better outcome?

Well, we may be motivated to argue because of feelings of frustration, disappointment, sadness, resentment, jealousy, inadequacy, shame, grief or other negative emotions. When we can’t resolve bad feelings, these feelings likely turn into anger. We may argue to defend ourselves, to get revenge, belittle, hurt, or triumph over someone. We may just want to boost our own self-esteem.

The way you handle the situation could build a positive, caring relationship, or make an enemy. Let’s think logically about an argument. What’s the goal of the argument? If your goal is a happy life, good relationships, personal growth, self-development and self-fulfillment, you’ll probably want both parties to feel a happy, successful outcome instead of feeling bad. Instead of trying to win the dispute, see the situation as a challenge, and as an opportunity to resolve a conflict in a positive way for both parties.

Some easy things to do to turn arguments into cooperative problem solving:

Take a moment to relax. Take a deep breath. Try to see it as an opportunity to show respect and appreciation for the other person, and for their point of view. Allow yourself to have a genuine smile.

Change the goal. Have a friendly discussion that can reach a mutually beneficial solution. Find a way to create a “win/win” situation. Is there a best solution, one that would lead to building a happier, advantageous result for all? Can it end with both parties feeling respected, appreciated, and good about themselves?

Listen. It’s said that God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we talk. Listen and try to understand the other person’s point of view, their positive goals, and to find out mutually desirable outcomes.

Don’t take it personally. Don’t get defensive. Keep a problem-solving attitude. It takes two to fight. Your friend will pick up on your attitude of respect and appreciation, and will soften his or her words.

Focus on the issue, not on your differences of opinion. Identify the problem and work on solving it together.

Keep in mind your goals of a better relationship, and a positive solution for both, instead of the goal of winning a battle.

Sometimes a quick surrender can defuse a conflict. Just say “fine,” or “you’re right.” They’ll feel more cooperative.

An argument can be a blessing. It’s a chance to show caring, respect and appreciation, and a chance to learn and grow in skills of interpersonal relations and problem solving. Your life and your relationships can get better and better. It’s another step towards building a happier, more successful, fulfilling life for yourself and those around you.

Bob Denny is a licensed mental health therapist in Florida who teaches psychology and human growth and development at Florida Gateway College.

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