How To Diffuse An Argument
By: Kathy
September 4, 2014

diffuseEver wonder how to keep an argument from escalating into an all out brawl? There is one simple tip that can, if used properly, diffuse an argument and get you and your partner talking instead of fighting! The tip? One word. . . . Validation.  If you read my articles, you’ve probably heard this term before. If you’ve seen me for couples counseling, you’ve most likely practiced this in my office. Let me give an example of why validation is so important . . .

I had a complaint with a company where I was having trouble using their product. I eventually called to voice my frustration about it. The woman on the phone basically told me no one else was having problems like I was. If I was mad before, now I was furious! I hung up, fumed for a bit, then called the place back to speak to a manager. After explaining to the manager the problems I had and how the other woman responded, she said, “Oh no, other people have had problems, too.”

womanstressThis was the turning point of the conversation. My blood pressure immediately dropped 20 points and I was willing to talk civilly with her. I understood there was only so much she could do, but I needed someone to hear me! I wanted someone to validate that I had experienced a problem and to care about what I was talking about. By simply validating my experience, the manager implemented what I consider to be the number one trick to diffusing an argument. . . . validation.  And it worked!!

When your partner is complaining about something, they may not know it, but they are more in need of being heard than anything else. They both want and need for you to care about what they are talking about, feeling, and experiencing. They can probably handle not getting their way, but hearing that they hurt goes a long, long way towards reaching an acceptable conclusion.  Unfortunately, most of us naively respond with defensiveness, anger, eye-rolling, sighing, cut-off, or blame shifting, none of which do anything but throw gas on the fire!

Let’s say a wife is angry because her husband doesn’t want to go with her to her family’s cook-out. Husband can. . .

1) Argue and defend why he doesn’t want to go.

2) Get mad at her for getting angry.

3) Go anyway but pout and be grouchy the whole time, or . . .

4) Say “I’m sorry. I know you don’t like to go alone. And answering everyone’s questions about why I’m not there probably makes you feel even more alone!”

couple2The first 3 responses don’t help her feel any better. The last response at least acknowledges that he is in tune with how she feels and may even make him re-think why he isn’t going!

There is definitely an art to validating and most of us need a lot of work to get any good at it. My hope is that this will at least help you see the need to do something differently. Going against how you’ve always responded and learning how to validate someone else’s feelings will be very difficult at first, but in the end, it very well may be what ultimately gives you peace and improves your relationships!