Tired of Arguing About The Same Old Things? Here Are 5 Ways to Defuse Arguments and Improve Communicatio

In this article, we'll give examples and explain ways to defuse arguments and improve communication...whether the conflict you'll be dealing with next time involves your teenager, co-worker, or even a friend.

Being an active listener is an important step to defuse arguments of any given situation and solve whatever problem has arisen. However, you must realize that when people feel strongly about an issue, their emotions will influence their ability to communicate and listen well. It is important, therefore, to utilize a combination of active and reflective listening skills.

Take time to cool off before continuing to speak (breathe deeply, always remember to count to ten, leave the room, or take a walk).

Here are five ways to defuse arguments and improve communication effectively.

1. Only criticize the behavior or the issue that is up for discussion...never criticize the person! By dealing with the issue or the behavior, you avoid attacking the other person. If you are "arguing" with your teen about a curfew, stick to the issue of the curfew or to his behavior of breaking curfew. Don't dredge up all of her prior mistakes or call her a "stupid kid" because she can't ever seem to get things right. That is a direct attack on the person and all that does is damages their self-esteem and creates barriers. Listen to what he has to say and keep him on track if he strays from the issue. Continue to use active listening even if the other person does not. Your use of active listening will be of tremendous help when trying to defuse arguments or other potentially damaging situation.

2. Realize that each person has worth. It is almost impossible to practice active or reflective listening if you dismiss the speaker as inferior or worthless. You don't have to agree with him, but it is crucial that you respect his right to a different opinion and acknowledge his sense of value. Find something that the two of you have in common. Try to understand what the other person is saying and why he feels a certain way.

3. Avoid absolutes when trying to defuse arguments, i.e., right or wrong, good or bad. Phrases like "you always" or "you never" should be avoided because these types of phrases slow down communication. Someone paying close attention to what is being said will sure pick up on that right away and can easily counter with a statement such as, "I hear you saying I always do such and so, but actually I..." The same is true of statements that indicate right/ or wrong and good or bad. This is not to say there aren't situations that are right or wrong, good or bad, but in an argument most right/wrong or good/bad situations are simply exaggerations and the actuality is somewhere in between. Far-ranging generalizations ultmately cause conflict. The focus then is not on solving the problem at hand, but instead the focus is on each party effectively defining her respective position.

4. Send "I feel" messages instead of "you" messages. For example, when you say, "You don't know what you're talking about," you are sending a "you" message. An example of an "I" message could go something like this... "I don't understand what you're trying to say." The point of this in trying to defuse arguments is to clarify your concerns so as not to lay blame on other people.. This is especially true when it comes time to defuse arguments with your teenager. An example of an "I" message here could be, "I worry about you when you aren't home by your curfew," or "When you come in after your curfew, I feel like you are purposely defying me." The "I" message tells your teenager how you are feeling about the situation at hand...in this case, his not making curfew. The "I" message conveys concern over the issue, whereas the "you" message attacks them as a person.

5. Engage your brain and suspend your emotions. This is perhaps the hardest of the five techniques because verbal conflicts by nature are emotional. The ultimate goal is to turn the verbal conflict into a discussion. Arguments are counterproductive, whether its while conducting business or trying to resolve a family issue. Arguments certainly do nothing for keeping harmony within the home or workplace. Rather than letting your emotions get the best of you, ask yourself, "How can I help solve this problem? What solution is best for both of us? What can we change? You need to control your emotions for the sake of the issue. Listen actively and nonjudgmentally.

Try to solve the problem best you can. After you have calmed down, look at what happened and decide how to handle it appropriately.


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