Three Ways to Stop an Argument

You've been there: You're having a decent day, and spend most of it looking forward to your dinner plans. And your date is late. Like 30 minutes late. 

At first you give them the benefit of the doubt, but after 10 minutes, you're annoyed. After 20 minutes, you're pissed off. This isn't the first time they've made you wait. You don't get to see them enough as it is. Don't they want to see you too? You were able to rearrange your schedule to be early. They're going to have a poor excuse. They always do.

You don't want to ruin the evening, but you also don't want to let them think this is OK with you. So what should you do? Or actually - what should you NOT do? There are three things that are guaranteed to make a bad situation worse.

1. We take our anger out on the wrong person. 
Learn to check in with yourself and get comfortable naming your feelings. Any version of irritated, "hangry," (it's a thing), preoccupied, worried, nervous, annoyed, frustrated, etc. is going to make your chances of a disagreement higher. Maybe your day wasn't as decent as you thought. Things like stress at work, traffic, or delaying dinner could have put you in a bad mood. All those stresses add up without you noticing, so you're less likely to brush it off when you're kept waiting. Practice journaling, body scan meditation, or simply taking a break and being mindful of your mood. This will help you know when you need space, affection, or some time to vent. 

2. We try to solve the problem when we're already pissed off. 
Who is their kindest, clearest, and most thoughtful when they're angry? You've been sitting there, building your case against this person. By the time they show up, you're ready to let them have it. Buy yourself some time by taking a break. You can always excuse yourself from almost any situation. And if you can't get away, "I need some time to think about this" is a phrase that will prevent you from saying things you can't take back later. Once you remove yourself, take some deep breaths, remind yourself of your gratitude list, or simply call yourself out for focusing on the negative. Those five minutes will give you some perspective. 

3. We focus on the other person instead of ourselves. 
How many times have you tried to solve a problem by explaining in great detail all the things they did to upset you, why they upset you, and what you would like them to do instead?  Did it work? (OK if it worked, you might not be reading this far down.)

"I felt embarrassed and disappointed that I was sitting here by myself for 30 minutes. I was really looking forward to seeing you." That is much harder to argue with than "You were late again. I was here early but I guess you don't care about that." After you've checked in with yourself and maybe taken a few minutes to calm down, try to stick to what you were feeling instead of going right into accusations. This takes practice, especially when it's so much easier to point out exactly what made you upset. But what if instead of trying to win an argument, you just avoided having one altogether?

Buy yourself some time, think about what's really bothering you, and then go back and talk about it when you're feeling more like yourself. Try any one (or all three!) of these, and watch the ways people treat you start to change. 

If you want to set better limits with your partner, call (562) 704-4736 for a free consultation to learn how therapy can help. Prospect Therapy welcomes individuals and couples of all genders and orientations in Long Beach, Seal Beach, and surrounding areas.

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