Are you a pirate when it comes to fighting — as in, do you brazenly charge in with accusations and a smattering of profanity, hoping to crudely beat your point across?
If learning how to win an argument is more important to you than learning how to use effective communication skills with the person you love most, you may have an unpleasant surprise in store.
The brutal truth is that winning arguments will get you nowhere when it comes to building healthy relationships that last.
Sure, it may feel good for a moment, but effective communication is one of the most important relationship tools a couple can have. You both win when each of you feel heard, loved and respected.
In fact, winning an argument without hurting the other person can actually save a relationship that’s in trouble!
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, compiled a list of 23 phrases that can help couples turn verbal brawls into constructive dialogue.
Here are nine of her best tips on what to say during a fight with the person you love, for anyone interested in learning how to win an argument with effective communication skills.
1. “You don’t have to solve this — it helps me just to talk to you.”
This is a good response to any quit whining-type of complaints. It’s a non-confrontational way to let someone know you need a considerate ear, not a contrary opinion.
Plus, it’s also an unexpected compliment in disguise.
2. “Please try to understand my point of view.”
One of the first things to fly out of the window during an argument is empathy. The more the accusations escalate, the more narrow-minded both parties get.
Try this simple request early in the argument to ensure that both of you approach the issue with the other’s feelings in mind.
3. “This is important to me. Please listen.”
You would think listening is a built-in function of any argument, but most of the time, we’re too busy calculating what to say next to truly pay attention to our partner’s words.
Use this clarion call and wait a couple of seconds before stating the most important points you want to get across. This is a key communication skill you can develop together.
4. “I can see my part in this.”
The fastest way to a nasty, no-solution impasse is to unload all the blame on one side. Yeah sure, you may think it’s justified, but no one likes to be singled out as the only problem.
Admitting your part in the matter, no matter how small it was, can help prevent an aggressive, “Nuh-Uh!” rebuttal.
5. “We’re getting off the subject.”
You start discussing the dishes in the sink, and suddenly it becomes a fight over who forgot to gas up the car, even in healthy relationships.
An argument can quickly become a large laundry list of complaint after complaint. Use this phrase to steer the conversation back to the main problem that needs to be tackled now.
6. “What are we really fighting about?”
Small tiffs can mask a larger issue, especially if they are frequent and revolve around the same few things.
Instead of fighting each and every incident to the bitter end, work with your partner to determine what could be causing the trend. This phrase can be followed up by the next point ….
7. “This isn’t just your problem, it’s our problem.”
This statement can change the fight dynamic from you vs. them to you-and-them vs. this problem.
8. “Let’s take a break for a few minutes.”
How many hurtful things have you said when emotions trumped common consideration? If you feel the urge to say something just to inflict pain, the best preventative is to call a time-out.
Separate, clear your thoughts and maybe sleep on it. You’d be surprised how fast the anger can pass. Nurturing love in a relationship is important, and so is making sure your anger doesn’t become a tool for causing hurt.
9. “I love you.”
Nothing throws off an argument better than this ultimate proclamation of affection.
As hard as it can be to say those three little words during a verbal smack down, they are an immediate reminder of the basic bond you share.
Don’t forget to reciprocate your partner’s own attempts to cool an argument down.
Being empathetic is key to mastering all of these techniques.
Julie Leung is the marketing director for Random House’s sci-fi/fantasy imprint, Del Rey Books, as well as the author of Paper Son: The Story of Tyrus Wong and the Mice of the Round Table series.
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