One of my least favorites things to do was to argue. For most of us, an argument carries a negative connotation. We see it is a form of bad communication when in fact, it is not. As I've grown, I've come to understand that arguing is normal. It means that people are being honest about how they feel. Friends, family, partners all argue. It's how you argue that makes the distinction between good and bad communication.
Unhealthy communication consists of yellings, throwing low blows, being dismissive, gaslighting and much more. They come from a very defensive place. They involve a lot of "you" statements, making it nearly impossible for the receiver to hear what's trying to be communicated. Instead, we should practice healthier ways to argue such as remaining calm, staying present, and using "I" statements. Here are a few more suggestions that can help us be better at arguing:
1. Know your audience.
When engaging in an argument, who you are arguing with is a very important factor to consider. Does this person have the capability or necessary skills to understand the concept you all are discussing? This could include emotional intelligence, experience, or empathy. If the person you’re arguing with is not logically or emotionally mature enough to grasp the concept in which you’re conversing about, there's no point. For example, you wouldn't argue with a child about interest rates on a loan because they have no frame of reference about interest rates or loans for that matter.
Knowing your audience and the level at which they communicate and comprehend could also help you strategically present your perspective in an argument. Maybe the person you're engaging in conversation with needs more time to process their thoughts and responses. You may want to allow them the time to think and respond without rushing or judging them and encourage them to take their time. Maybe that person heavily watches for body language and non-verbal cues. You may want to be hyper-aware of if your arms are folded, if you're making eye contact, etc. Considering what the other person may need to receive your message could be the change agent needed to have a healthy argument.
2. Remove your ego so that you are able to be objective and not subjective.
My mom always says "Perception is true to the perceiver." For a very long time, when I argued with others, I did so for them to only see my point without any consideration of what they felt or experienced. I felt so strongly about my argument that it left no room for me to take in another vantage point of what the argument is about. That was me being a subjective communicator.
When you look at things subjectively, you base them off of your personal opinions. Objective thinking is just the opposite: not being influenced by your personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts. Simply, be a little more selfless when in an argument. Seek to understand before you're understood. In most cases, being both understood and understanding is achievable, but you have to check your ego at the door.
Usually, arguments are an indication of a miscommunication. It takes self-awareness to realize that your perspective and position in the argument are being driven by your ego and then check and redirect your thoughts to include and consider the perceiver's point of view. It won't be easy. It will take discipline, but difficult does not mean impossible. Sometimes, the thing in your arguments that needs to change, is you.
3. Your feelings are valid but do not treat them as though they are facts.
Our vocabulary gave us a wide range of emotions to choose from. Happy, sad, angry, confused, indifferent, hurt and the list goes on. We're human with hearts and we're allowed to feel all of these emotions. However, it is not okay, especially in an argument, to treat these feelings as though they are facts. For example, your best friend may have forgotten to say "Happy Birthday!" on your birthday this year. You may feel sad, angry, forgotten, etc. However, just because you feel that way does not mean that this was their intention. Statements like "You meant to hurt me, otherwise you wouldn't have forgotten my birthday!", insinuate that your friend meant to harm you which in most cases, is untrue and unfair. A better approach would be "When you forgot to tell me happy birthday, I was hurt." This allows you to speak only for you and you alone, as you should and gives your friend the opportunity to respond to your feelings without feeling attacked.
One thing I like to do when processing my feelings is examining the intention over the execution. More than likely, your friend didn't intend to hurt you and forget your birthday. Even though he/she did indeed forget (the execution), weighing in their intention to say it, softens the blow and can help redirect your emotions and thoughts.
4. Know when to walk away.
The best advice I can give is knowing when to walk away from the table. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so this conversation doesn’t have to be concluded in one either. Walking away is okay, but it's how you do it that counts. If you the person you're arguing with is still speaking, getting up and storming out would not be the best approach (unless you're in harm's way). It's dismissive. It is also very ego-driven. A better approach is to say, "I would like to finish this conversation after we have a chance to let cooler heads prevail. Is that okay?"
Also, another good strategy for walking away from an argument is agreeing to disagree. Sometimes, they just won't see your side and you won't see theirs. Agreeing to disagree doesn't mean you lost. It does mean you and the person you're arguing with have successfully concluded the conversation amicably.
5. Pick Your Battles Wisely
The last tool in our kit today is knowing which arguments are worth having. Somethings are not worth the argument. What's worth arguing about is for you to decide. Set your boundaries and honor them, but don't allow petty annoyances to take up too much space in your heart. If it won't bother you in 5-10 minutes, and the behavior is not habitual, it is not worth bringing up.
These are just a few tricks of the trades I've learned over the years when arguing with others. Yet still, there's much more for me/us to learn. Be a consummate student and seek communication tips and strategies that may be better suited for you to have healthier arguments. Arguing is natural and should be expected, so don't shy away from it. Desmond TuTu once said "Don't raise your voice. Improve your argument."