The 7 DOs and DON’Ts of Arguing
He still hasn’t fixed the broken doorknob. You forgot to tell him about the double-date you scheduled (rom-com double feature!), again. Before you know it, you’re having it out about everything you’ve every been mad about. But before you lose your cool and start slamming doors (how do you think that doorknob broke in the first place?), read up on these tips for fighting fair—instead of fighting to the death.
DO have it out face to face. This means truly face to face, not text to text or seething email to seething email. Go ahead, try to find an example of a time you had a fight over G-chat and had it end well.
DON’T avoid the fight. If something’s been bugging you—really? Dirty laundry on the bathroom floor, again?—eventually, it’ll come out. Choosing to let it out in a calm, constructive way will lead to a better outcome than waiting until you unleash on him in the hosiery aisle at Target (“Maybe you wouldn’t need new socks if you managed to throw the ones you have in the hamper!”).
DON’T state opinion as fact. Instead of saying matter-of-factly that your partner is disrespectful—a sure way to get them immediately defensive—pick an example and ease into it with an “I” statement: for example “I felt disrespected when you turned our backyard into a neighborhood petting zoo without asking me first. You know goats scare me.”
Next: More DOs and DONT’S of Arguing
DON’T pick a fight in public. You won’t get anywhere when there’s an audience around you (unless the plan is to make everyone as uncomfortable as possible), so save the drama for the stage, not your sister’s engagement party or your significant other’s office party. Wait until you get home—fine, or until you get to the car—to bring up whatever’s bothering you.
DO stay on topic. First you’re fighting about your mother-in-law, and next thing you know, every fight from the past 15 years is on the table. Take a deep breath and bring it back to the source of the argument—and work together on solving just that one this time around. Save some fun for next week!
DON’T fight to win. Fight with the intention of meeting in the middle, not with the intention to crush the competition. “Winning” the argument may feel good in the moment, but it’s compromise that will actually lead to fewer arguments about the same thing in the future.
DO end on the same page. What a waste, skipping tonight’s episode of The Daily Show only to argue with no conclusion. Make the fight worth it by getting some real problem-solving done—and confirm with each other that you’re going back to your corners with that same solution in mind.