Friday, October 25, 2013

How to argue — and get something accomplished

For our issue about not going crazy, we thought covering how to argue in a productive way would take your day-to-day disagreements to a productive level. Read more of our October issue. Here are some bad ways of arguing -- are you using these techniques?

People enter into small and large arguments all the time. The purpose of the argument is to express clearly how they feel about whatever is being disputed. If someone is vaguely annoyed, he/she should sound vaguely annoyed. If he/she is enraged, that person should sound enraged. Whenever someone always speaks in a monotone, or is always shouting, for that matter, the other person will not know exactly how his/her partner really feels.

In a good relationship, even big arguments are set aside within a few minutes. And life goes on.

Bad ways of arguing:
  • One person tries to dominate the other. This has nothing to do with saying how strongly someone feels about something; it has to do with establishing who is the boss. No one should try to out-shout the other. Naturally, resentment is built into and comes out of this kind of argument.
  • Name-calling. No one in a family should call another family member a name. Insulting someone is not part of a good argument. Certainly, no one should spit on a spouse! (I have come across three such cases.)
  • No one should physically threaten someone else, or scare somebody by seeming to be out of control, let’s say, by punching a wall, or throwing things.
  • People should not bring up the past, or attack the other person’s character, or compare the other person to some other disliked member of the family. “You’re just like your mother.”
  • No one should refuse to do something he has agreed previously to do.
  • Nagging is undesirable. If the partner knows how the spouse feels, that is all that is necessary, even if the outcome of a particular argument seems unsatisfactory.
  • No one should sulk. Sulking is designed to punish the other person. People who sulk tend to sulk repeatedly. A spouse will go through different stages over the years. First he/she will try to find out what is bothering the other person and usually try to sort the argument out. After a while, the partner is inclined just to let the sulker stew for a while. Finally, most spouses get to the point where they do not know what is bothering their spouse, and they do not much care.
Source: Fredric Neuman,

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