Arguments with others are like wiping your butt. Not exactly fun, sometimes messy, but as a human being in society, there’s no way around it.
This isn’t a problem per se, but they often blow up like Mount St. Helens in 1980, frustrating you, your neighbors, and anyone else who hears it.
The closer you are to someone, the easier this happens. My grandma can drive me nuts with a few words. My ex and I argued for hours over a loaf of banana bread. And my best friend didn’t talk to me for weeks due to a few dirty dishes. The smallest winds often turn into the biggest storms.
Instead of having a good time together, you fume and call the other a bunch of names – mostly in your head, sometimes out loud. And once you get stuck in your opinion, it feels like there’s no solution at all.
But there is.
One simple principle can make you approach your arguments in a completely different way, strengthening your relationship instead of breaking it apart.
“You can’t win a war – somebody else just loses.” – Alexandra Christo, To Kill A Kingdom
A New Approach to Consider Whenever You Argue
Most people approach arguments in an unproductive manner.
If the goal is being right, it becomes a race you can’t win – even if you are right.
This mindset obscures the bigger picture. When ego takes charge, it wreaks havoc on your relationship. The immediate victory of the battle may be sweet, but the long-term war—the health of your relationship—may be lost.
So consider this alternative perspective: Rather than insisting on being right, strive to do the right thing for your relationship.
This is tough. Not pressing your point can feel like defeat. But if you think like that, you’ve already lost.
The Golden Rule that Ends War
Insisting on being right is like dropping an atomic bomb to bring peace. Sure, you’ve destroyed the opposing forces waging war – but also everything else that you loved.
This isn’t about letting the other win for the sake of peace – it’s about realizing that you either win together, or you both lose.
It doesn’t matter who’s turn it is with the dishes, if you want to go out or stay in, or who initiates sex more. What matters is that you find a solution that works for both of you.
That’s why the golden rule that can end any argument is this:
It’s not you versus the other – it’s you two against the problem.
Let that sink in.
Now, the only problem that’s left is the heat of the moment. When you’re in a deeply emotional argument, the only solution you want is one that involves six rolls of duct tape wrapped around the other’s mouth. This feels good in the moment but is hard to explain to the police.
Let’s have a banana instead:
How To Keep Your Cool in the Heat of the Moment
When the Tchernobyl nuclear reactor had a meltdown in 1986, there was nothing anyone could’ve done.
Many things could’ve prevented the accident, but once the system reached the point of no return, it was game over no matter what.
You have to cool down your arguments before they overheat.
My ex and I used a code word that we agreed upon. When our argument took a turn towards Armageddon City, we said banana. Then, we’d go into separate rooms, take a deep breath, and eat one.
Bite by bite.
Taking deep breaths in between.
You only get back together once you’ve calmed down and understood the golden principle – it’s you two versus the problem, not against each other.
You can even say it: “I’m on your side. Let’s find a solution together.”
Then, find out what the problem is. It’s never about the dirty dishes. It’s always about something bigger – feeling unappreciated, ignored, exploited, undesired, or unloved.
How to Find the Real Problem
Having a common problem, goal, or even enemy brings people together like an ice-cream truck to a group of preschoolers. But you need to get to the core of what exactly you’re aiming for.
Here are a few questions you can ask each other that will get you from clueless to deep understanding.
- How do you feel and why?
This is not only the most basic, but also most important question you can ask. Arguments derail because of piled up emotions, so create space to vent. Saying out loud that you feel unappreciated takes off the pressure and lets the other know what’s up
- What do you actually want?
The key here is to go beyond the surface. If you fancy going out while your partner craves cuddles with a movie, you might still have the same goal – spending quality time together. This question will often make you realize you’ve been on the same side all along.
- Am I the problem or just the outlet?
You often carry unresolved feelings within you, like stress from work, being tired, or worries about your grandma who got sick. It’s like walking around with TNT in your pocket – a small flame can create a huge explosion. Find the underlying issue and defuse the bomb.
Whatever you argue about, don’t fight each other.
Find the problem.
Solve it together.
Instead of going bananas, have a banana.
That’s how you both win.