When getting into a tiff with someone, our first instincts are usually to get firm and tough, going on the attack to get our point across. However, becoming aggressive is not always the best way to change someone's mind, and there are a number of surprising ways to win an argument with kindness that you might want to try instead. No one likes to feel insulted or intimidated, and if you feel like you've been struggling to come out on top during conversations, it might be time to change your tactics.
"No matter how much someone cares for you or loves you, if you speak to them in any way other than with kindness and civility, you will not be listened to," says communication expert Leslie Shore over email. "Their mind-chatter about ‘why you have such an attitude’ will get in the way of their being able to listen effectively. You can’t get your point across if the person you are trying to persuade is not listening."
Trying to be kind during an argument can not only help you express yourself, but it can help prevent any hurt feelings and improve your relationships and the way you treat others. Here are 11 surprising ways you can win an argument with kindness.
1Find A Comfortable Environment
Cornering someone at a party or having a discussion in a place where the person feels uncomfortable is going to make them feel uneasy, and it might trigger their fight or flight response. "Make sure you are both comfortable," says conversation expert Celeste Headlee. "Set the stage for a healthy exchange, and create an atmosphere where you can both be at your best."
Sometimes, people just want to be heard. "Allowing them to speak without interruption might help them feel some relief and set the stage for an honest exchange," says Headlee. "If they feel they have burning issues they need to get off their chest, they may be too distracted to focus on what you're saying."
3Point Out What You Agree With
If the person you are talking to has some valid points, make sure to let them know it. "This opens them up to what persuasive thing you are going to say next," says Shore. "If you can use some of their thinking and verbiage in your response to them, they feel heard. Both these steps opens them up to persuasion, which, after all, is what ‘winning’ is about."
Start your side of the argument from a place of curiosity as opposed to a place of a definite opinion. "You can communicate curiosity by saying things such as, 'I'd like to understand more how we got off track' or 'I'm not completely sure what went wrong here, but I'd like to try and figure it out,'" says therapist and confidence expert Karol Ward, LCSW over email.
5Share Your Vulnerabilities
Vulnerability can help create a bond between two people. "When you share your own fears or how uncomfortable you are about having this argument, you won't come across as defensive," says Ward. "You can use phrases like, 'I feel nervous about bringing this up' or 'I don't like to have conflict but this is important to me to share with you.'"
6Focus On Your Body Language
If you're crossing your arms and frowning at someone, they're going to instantly go on the defensive. "Your micro-expressions and body language are immediately reacted to," says Shore. "Soften your body language by putting your weight on one leg and not being in a military stance. Uncross your arms, and stop with the nagging finger pointing. Instead of looking intense, mad, or using the hard, parental-like stare, consciously de-focus your eyes for a moment to let their muscles relax. Then do the same for the rest of your face."
7Choose Your Words Carefully
Word choice is important, and you don't want to resort to insults or putting someone down. "When I was in retail, I had a boss that told me 'You are a lousy merchandiser,'” says Shore. "As you can imagine, I stopped listening to him. If he had said instead, 'Operations in your stores are in great shape. I think though, you need help in visual merchandising,' that would have been an approach I could listen to." Avoid using negative adjectives, and if you can throw in some positive adjectives, you will be showing some compassion and humanity, two core parts of kindness.
8Emphasize The Importance Of Your Relationship
Start the conversation by acknowledging the qualities you like in the other person. "This shows them that you see them not just as someone you are arguing with, but as a whole person," says Ward. "Say things like, 'I value our relationship, and I want to resolve this," or "I love and appreciate you so much, but right now I'm upset.'"
9Compliment The Other Person
Complimenting the behavior of the person with the opposing opinion or argument will make them feel like their side is being considered. "For instance, say 'You have obviously done a great deal of research in coming to your conclusion,' 'I admire your passion,' or 'You articulated your point of view so well,'" says conversation expert Debra Fine over email.
10Make One Point At A Time
Trying to get multiple points across at once can overwhelm the person and make them feel attacked. "Make one point at a time," says Headlee. "Go easy. The human brain can only really handle one or two concepts at any given moment. So, don't pepper them with information. Give them space to think, absorb, and respond."
11Know When To Let The Conversation End
"Let them walk away if they've had enough," says Headlee. "Bullying someone won't help you achieve your goal. If you hope to relay information to someone, let them tell you when they're not in a healthy frame of mind anymore. If you are kind about it, they're much more likely to enter into another conversation in the future."