Humans are emotional creatures, which makes conflict unavoidable. Experiencing conflict and managing it in constructive ways is key to growing ourselves and our relationships. Knowing how to deescalate an argument can help when fighting with a partner.
The goal of deescalation is to build a rapid rapport with an agitated individual to stop the situation from becoming violent. Though most arguments that occur with our partner are not this severe, some are. Knowing how to effectively argue can help strengthen your relationship, and help determine if or when you need to get out.
Avoid Becoming Defensive When Facing an Argument
Our first reaction when our partner says something is to immediately respond. An argument is no different, and it can immediately make us defensive. When we feel attacked, we think we need to attack back to defend ourselves, and it only escalates the argument more.
Instead, force yourself to take a minute and think about what your partner is saying. There are a lot of things at play when we’re upset, and what the argument is about isn’t always what started it.
Even when your partner’s comments are directed at you, remember: the situation isn’t necessarily about you. Do not try to defend yourself or anyone else against any misconceptions. You can worry about setting the record straight once the argument has been deescalated.
Be Empathetic and Really Listen to Your Partner
When dealing with an argument in your relationship, give your partner time to vent their frustration before you try to deescalate. Letting them talk allows them to feel heard, while giving you a chance to find out exactly what is upsetting them.
The best way to convey you’re listening is to actually listen! Keep eye contact and avoid multitasking to show your partner they have your full attention. Clarifying, paraphrasing, and asking open-ended questions can show your partner that you understand and that you care. You don’t have to agree to make them feel heard. Just knowing you’re listening can be enough to deescalate the argument.
Act Calm in the Argument, Even If You’re Not
Confrontation is hard. When our partner is upset, regardless of if they’re right or wrong, it’s natural for us to panic. Some of us go right to apologizing, while others hit right back, but neither is constructive to the relationship.
If you’re going to live together, you’re going to fight together, and some fights are going to be worse than others. The first step to deescalate an argument is to stay calm. Excessive gesturing, pacing, and fidgeting which can be indicative of anxiety. Instead, keep your posture relaxed and your expression neutral. The calmer you act, the calmer you’ll feel; and the less emotion will be involved to feed the argument.
Studies show people respond positively to their own name, so use your partner’s name when speaking to them to deescalate an argument. The goal of deescalation is to quickly build rapport with an agitated person and reduce the risk of violence. Though most arguments you’ll have with your partner won’t be on quite that level, using his or her name can help you deescalate to a level where you can talk things through.
Set Boundaries and Limits for Your Partner
Just because your partner is upset doesn’t mean anything can fly. A successful relationship has respect on both sides, and even though we both can get carried away in the heat of the moment, an argument is not a free-pass for your partner to start disrespecting you.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries during an argument; just be sure to be respectful when doing so. Name-calling should never be tolerated, especially out of anger, so if your partner crosses that line during an argument, gently remind them of that limit.
You and Your Partner Are Teammates
There should never be a me vs you mentality in a relationship no matter what your argument is about. If you’re trying to deescalate an argument with your partner, make sure you both are seeing things in terms of the relationship vs the problem. Keeping the focus on the problem will put you and your partner on the same side, forcing you to work together toward a solution.
If your partner is very upset, try to get them to say yes to you about something. It’s difficult to stay angry at someone we agree with, so getting them to say yes can sometimes deescalate the argument down to a level where you can talk things out.
Trust Your Instincts
If your instincts are telling you you are in danger, do not ignore it for the sake of deescalating the argument. Domestic violence is experienced by millions each year, and your safety matters more than resolving argument with your partner. If you’re in a domestic violence situation, you are not alone, and you do not need to stay.
What role do arguments play in your relationship? Have you tried any of these techniques to deescalate an argument with your partner or have some of your own? Leave us a comment!