Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a “stupid argument” and asked, “how did we get here?” Or awakened in the morning after an argument and forgotten what it was even about?
Here’s what we’ve found after years of working with business partners, couples, co-workers, friends, and families. So called, “stupid arguments” can be some of the most useful tools for pinpointing an unworkable dynamic in a relationship. Those arguments can serve as breadcrumbs that reliably lead to the real issue.
One of the reasons we created the online course, Clean the Slate: Learn How to Argue to Create Partnership, is because of our experience helping folks sort-out and get-out of problematic argument patterns. Things such as shouting matches, walking out in a huff, having the same argument over-and-over without getting anywhere, and getting side-tracked off the real issue by nasty comments or so-called “zingers,” can be serious obstacles to effective and satisfying communication.
Here are a few pointers to consider:
- Stop labelling the argument “stupid.” The argument is most likely not about the sarcastic comment or the forgotten agreement. It is about how you feel - and it is never useful to minimize or find fault with that.
- Steer clear of the nitty gritty, petty details. Get back to how you feel. You don’t need to justify your feelings by providing hours worth of evidence and key examples. (And if you’re the listener, pay attention to the feeling the other is expressing, it might be disguised as an accusation).
- Remember you have two ears and one mouth. Listen to what the other is saying instead of formulating your defense or retort as they speak. Always keep in mind that the other is talking about themselves even if they are accusing you of something. (For listeners: If their facts are off, it is probably more important to address what they are feeling rather than correct them right now).
- Get some outside help. It is incredibly challenging to do this kind of work on your own. An unbiased listener with the skills to ask the right questions at the right time will speed up the process and help both of you to get back on common ground. A great place to start is our course, Clean the Slate: Learn How to Argue to Create Partnership, which includes a one-to-one follow-up session with one of us.
To honoring how you feel!