Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a heated argument with a partner, friend, family member, or coworker? More common than you might imagine, arguments can quickly get out of control, and suddenly you’re both steaming and slamming doors. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Before any disagreement escalates, take the opportunity to shift gears, so you can have a fruitful discussion instead.
We’ve all been there. Your day is going perfectly fine, and then all of a sudden, a huge argument blows up between you and someone you care about. Whether it’s a partner, friend, family member or coworker, arguments have this way of getting out of control very quickly. Before you know it, you’re both steaming and slamming doors.
At their core, arguments are really all about two people who want to be validated. From politics to money to scheduling issues and so much more, both sides want to be heard, and when that doesn’t happen, a fight can ensue.
Fortunately, there are some helpful phrases that can come to the rescue when you’re in the middle of an argument.
What Starts Arguments in the First Place?
“Many arguments start with a misunderstanding or miscommunication,” says Patrice Berry, Psy.D., LCP. “We often see people from our perspective and filter their words and behavior through what we would say or do instead of remembering that they are separate from us.”
Haleh Malek, Psy.D., a therapist at Harmony Place in Woodland Hills, California, also weighs in, saying, “Arguments, typically fueled by a desire for power and control, often start when someone feels strongly about a matter and wants their opinion known, and accepted, by the other person. Arguments can escalate if the person making their case feels attacked, unheard, dismissed and/or can’t find the words to express themselves.”
Even when we know someone very well, it’s still entirely possible to misread them.
Dr. Berry explains, “There are times that even when we are very close to someone, we will need to ask them to clarify their message.”
Despite the fact that, at times, arguments are an inevitable part of life, there are ways to at least reduce their frequency.
“Be aware of your emotional state and the adverse impact that feeling tired, hungry, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed or just being a little ‘off’ may have on you,” Dr. Malek says. “Such feelings might lead an otherwise rational individual to become more argumentative.”
Although it may not seem like it, Dr. Berry points out that disagreements and misunderstandings are part of any healthy relationship.
“Conflict can provide us with a chance to show empathy, practice healthy communication and set boundaries in our relationships,” she says. “Healthy conflict resolution requires emotional intelligence and maturity.”
15 Phrases to Effectively End Any Argument
1. “I understand where you’re coming from.”
One big part of phrases that can disarm an argument is letting the other person know that they’re heard, since, as we mentioned, validation is a driving factor behind most disputes. Dr. Berry says that this particular phrase allows the other person to feel heard and signals that you understand their perspective.https://e1cccc179e9e873cc9a119ec4ebec97e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html
“This does not mean that you agree with them or that they have changed your perspective,” she says. Don’t think of this phrase as “giving in,” but rather, one that can diffuse a heated situation.
2. “Let’s agree to disagree.”
This classic statement is a great way to end an argument. Dr. Berry calls this “a more direct version” of the previous statement, and Dr. Malek says that it can help reduce tension and allow both parties to feel like they’ve been heard.https://e1cccc179e9e873cc9a119ec4ebec97e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html
3. “We are allowed to have different opinions/views. We don’t need to argue about it.”
A disarming phrase should aim to cool things down and deescalate an argument. Dr. Malek says that these words “cool tension” between the parties and acknowledges that a resolution isn’t always required.
4. “I appreciate your perspective.”
“This is another way to let the other person know that you have heard and understand their perspective or point of view,” Dr. Berry shares.
5. “I hear you.”
As we’ve mentioned, people just want to feel like they’re being heard, whether they’re in the midst of an argument or not. Dr. Malek suggests that simply saying, “I hear you,” can validate one’s opinion.
6. “You have keen insight and great ideas, but now is really not a good time to have this discussion.”
Often, a fight can benefit from stepping away and gaining some peace and perspective. Dr. Malek says that this phrase not only shows respect to the other person, but also provides a cooling-off period.
7. “I really appreciate you and what you have to say, but I think we should discuss this at another time.”
For another way to communicate respect and cool off from one another, look to this phrase shared by Dr. Malek.
8. “Can we take a break and revisit this later?”
“This can be an effective way to request a break from the conversation,” Dr. Berry says. “Often during a heated argument, it can be helpful to step back from the conversation before attempting to resolve the issue or find a solution.”
Dr. Berry adds that during an argument, our brains can go into a stress response that she calls the “amygdala hijack,” which involves the actions (or inactions) of fight, flight, freeze and people-pleasing/fawn. “That shuts down our thinking brain, or the prefrontal cortex,” she says. “A break can give both people time to calm down and come back to the conversation later.”
9. “I think we both need a break to cool down.”
Sometimes, you literally just need to request a cool-down break, as Dr. Malek points out with this phrase.
10. “I see your point, and yet I still feel…”
You may be tempted during an argument to say, “I see your point, but…” Dr. Berry says that many individuals feel that the word “but” negates the first part of the sentence, especially if one is taking everything literally and emotions are high. Dr. Berry says that replacing “but” with “and yet” is a way to help the other person still feel validated and doesn’t minimize their perspective.
11. “We may not agree, and that’s okay.”
Simply put? Dr. Malek says this phrase shows respect for the other’s perspective.
12. “It seems like we have been focusing on the problem. Let’s focus on finding a solution instead.”
Perhaps the argument needs to shift its course a bit. For this phrase, Dr. Berry says, “This is a way to change the direction of the conversation to looking for solutions and remembering that we have a common goal.”
13. “I value what you have to say, but arguing is not effective communication.”
While this phrase still shows respect, as Dr. Malek says, it can also remind both of you that lowered voices and calm words can act as better communication tools than shouting and name-calling.
14. “What I hear you say is…is that correct?”
Dr. Malek says that after saying, “What I hear you say is…”, you’ll repeat the other person’s argument or position on an issue. Adding, “Is that correct?” demonstrates that you are listening.
15. “I value our relationship more than being right.”
Do you still love or care for the other person? The answer is more than likely yes. You can remind them that you care by saying this phrase.
“This can be a way to remind the other individual of the importance of the relationship instead of solely focusing on the problem,” Dr. Berry says.
- Psychologist Patrice Berry, Psy.D., LCP.
- Haleh Malek, Psy.D., a therapist at Harmony Place in Woodland Hills, California.
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