7 Things That Will Instantly De-Escalate An Argument
Believe it or not, fighting with your partner can be healthy. But, there are certain ways of fighting that are constructive — and other ways that can tear your relationship apart. “All couples argue,” Sarah Watson, licensed professional counselor and sex therapist, tells Bustle. “It’s incredibly healthy to discuss your differences and what you need from your partner. What isn't healthy is screaming and saying hurtful things that you cannot take back.”
The difficult thing is that arguments can easily gain momentum. You may start out having a reasonable discussion, and then suddenly you're nit-picking each other, screaming about every argument you've ever had, or stuck in a horrific loop over the semantics of something one of you said four and half months ago. It can feel totally out of control and like there's no way out. But there is, and the key is de-escalating the argument.
So how on earth can you do that? First, you need to take a grip on the conversation, give yourself some breathing room, and focus on the real problem. Get away from whatever tangent you've gone off on and find a way to get to what the real core issue are and, more importantly, how to fix them. Here are seven things that will help you de-escalate an argument as soon as possible.
1. Focus On How You Feel
If you tend to focus on the facts and semantics in an argument, try talking about how you feel. It reminds both of you that you care about each other and you should be focused on the personal side of the argument. Not only will it help you de-escalate the fight, it'll help you understand your partner better.
"Arguments can even elevate relationships if they’re handled with tenderness and kindness," psychologist and Harvard lecturer Holly Parker, PhD, author of If We're Together, Why Do I Feel So Alone?, tells Bustle "When people feel less understood by their partner after an argument, they feel less happiness, but people who feel more understood by their partner don’t feel that happiness dip."
2. Ditch The Tit-For-Tat
If you start listing all the little things that your partner has done, it can be a mess. "These statements of judgement usually come from a place of insecurity, and feeling as if you're being judged yourself," emotional health expert and NYC-based psychotherapist Katherine Schafler tells Bustle. "You might be tempted to check, but two wrongs still don't make a right." Instead of going tit-for-tat with each other, take a deep breath and get back to the root issue.
3. Take Responsibility
If you feel like you're going around in circles, make sure you're taking responsibility for your role in the disagreement. "Each partner must take ownership of what they do to to contribute to the problem," Talia Wagner, Los Angeles-based marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "Failing to be accountable for our part and consistently blaming our partner is a sure sign that the relationship will remain unhealthy and consistently lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and unhappiness."
Nobody's perfect. The only way to slow down a fight is if you're willing to deal with what you've done wrong, too.
4. Start To Look Forward
Looking at your relationship as a whole can help you come back down to earth. This is just one moment in your relationship — think of where you want to end up. “To think about the future, try to flash forward to a moment in time that makes you happy to fantasize about: your wedding, or having your first child," dating coach and licensed marriage and family therapist Pella Weisman tells Bustle. "When you imagine these happy moments, imagine who you want to be now and then. Remember all the reasons you love and choose your partner. Then tell them about why the dishes in the sink bother you.” It's good to stay in touch with the big picture.
5. Point Out The Escalation
Sometimes things spiral out of control without you even noticing it. If one of you can take a moment to say, "What are we doing? How did we get here?" you may be more likely to back down.
6. Admit You See Their Point Of View
You don't need to agree with your partner's point of view to resolve things, but an argument can get heated if you keep acting like the other person is totally delusional. “Think of listening to your partner as a visit to another planet,” Weisman says. “You want to be respectful, curious, and open to different customs and traditions — even if they seem very different than your own.”
Do your part to show you respect their point of view, even if you don't agree with it.
7. Ask Genuine Questions
“Ask lots of questions and try to understand the way your partner feels and thinks,” Weisman says. “It means leaving your own planet for awhile in order to really get a sense of theirs.” It also helps slow down the momentum of the argument and get your learning about each other. It's so much better than just trading insults back and forth.
Fights can get intense quickly, so knowing how to de-escalate them is key. Just keep some perspective and focus on finding solutions and you can keep the disagreement from spiraling out of control.