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Yes, It Is Possible To Avoid Arguments. Part 2

Paris 2.0: les nouveaux médias transforment nos façons d'interagir on line et off line. Photo by François LAFITE

Opening the possibility of avoiding arguments in the face of differing viewpoints has to do with whether the intention of either person is grounded in a commitment to control and dominate, or to create mutual understanding. Put another way, whether it is to connect or to protect. Arguments can be minimized or avoided even if only one of the partners is committed to connection and understanding. What such an outcome requires is a willingness on that partner’s part to:

-Listen without interrupting, contesting or opposing the content of the other’s words.

-Acknowledge and restate his understanding of what he has just heard.

-Seek acknowledgment from his partner that he correctly understands her words, and if not, to continue the process of clarifying communication until there is a mutually agreed upon understanding. Note: it is important to distinguish ‘understanding’ from “agreement”. They are not synonymous.

-When such an understanding is established it’s helpful to express gratitude to the speaker for expressing his point of view, followed by a request to be informed as to whether the speaker has an interest in hearing the listener’s perspective. If the response to this question is affirmative, the listener then has an invitation to express his point of view without interruption. If interruption occurs, the now speaker can request that he complete his response before engaging in a secondary conversation.

If the former speaker refuses to hear her partner’s perspective, an attempt should be made to agree to continue the conversation at a mutually agreed upon time.

If the former speaker expresses interest in hearing his point of view, the now speaker can express his perspective without critiquing, evaluating, judging or distinguishing it from that of his partner. He night also clarify that his intention is for each partner to her and understand each other’s perspective so that out of the dialogue a greater mutual understanding can be reached. It’s important that the present speaker’s communication focuses exclusively on his perspective and doesn’t address any aspects of that of his partner and that he explicitly expresses a desire for both partners to experience an appreciation of each other’s perspectives, without necessarily coming to complete agreement with each other.

Since the key element here has to do with understanding concerns and views rather than engaging in a competition to be right, the underlying intention of the partner who is unwilling to argue is the most important aspect of the process and consequently the factor that will be the prevailing influence in the direction that the dialogue moves.

Even when one partner insists upon engaging in a way that is designed to identify a ‘winner’ and ‘loser’ in the dialogue, it is possible for the other to refuse to argue by simply acknowledging the position that is being put forth and stating his perspective without defensiveness or coercive efforts to secure agreement. It often helps to offer the option to simply gather information from each other without needing at this time to determine who ‘wins’ and who ‘loses’. When a conversation is contextualized as a quest for understanding rather than a series of mutually coercive efforts to prevail, the tone and intention shifts from being adversarial and combative to being more conciliatory, and the relationship between the participants can shift from opponents to partners.

The key element here has to do with the willingness of the person who desires a non-adversarial dialogue to drop any defensive or manipulative maneuvers that are designed to protect vulnerability and influence or control the other. This form of emotional openness requires the willingness to risk vulnerability and to resist the temptation to become defensive even if situation becomes more heated.

If this stance can be held in the face of strong emotions (admittedly, no easy thing to do), it is likely that there will be a softening of the other partner’s attachment to his position as he feels less threatened. This opening can allow for a deeper understanding of the unspoken fears, needs, and concerns that underlie the positions that each partner has taken. As these aspects are revealed in the dialogue, a true breakthrough in understanding can occur.

In those cases where the adversarial partner is repeatedly unresponsive to the vulnerability offered by the other, there may come a point at which it is unwise to continue the conversation. At this point it’s helpful to acknowledge (without blame) that there is an impasse that for the time being seems impenetrable, and to suggest that the conversation be resumed at a mutually agreed upon time, after both partners have had an opportunity to cool down and revisit the subject with an enhanced level of receptivity. If the adversarial partner refuses to disengage, even temporarily, the other is compelled to separate as cleanly and respectfully as possible.

Arguments can be avoided, and when we consider the futility of trying to resolve differences by efforts that are coercive, controlling, and manipulative, the motivation to learn more effective ways of dealing with differences can grow exponentially.

As we become “conscious combatants” rather than driven adversaries, we become increasingly skillful in the art of respectfully engaging with others while simultaneously holding our own ground and honoring our truth. These are among the most critical competencies that we are all called upon to master if we are to live lives of love, respect and honor. And considering what the benefits of skillful communication include, the price of mastering this art is amazingly low!


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Yes, It Is Possible To Avoid Arguments. Part 2


Bloomwork

Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW are considered experts in the field of relationships. They have been married since 1972. They have both been trained as seminar leaders, therapists and relationship counselors and have been working with individuals, couples, and groups since 1975. They have been featured presenters at numerous conferences, universities, and institutions of learning throughout the country and overseas as well. They have appeared on over two hundred radio and TV programs. Linda and Charlie are co-authors of the widely acclaimed books: 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last (over 100,000 copies sold) Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love, and Happily Ever After...and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams. The Blooms are excited to announce the release of their fourth book, That Which Doesn't Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. They live in Santa Cruz, California, near their two children and three grandchildren. To view our upcoming events and to sign up for our free newsletter, visit our website at: www.Bloomwork.com


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APA Reference
Bloom, L. (2020). Yes, It Is Possible To Avoid Arguments. Part 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationship-skills/2015/02/yes-it-is-possible-to-avoid-arguments-part-2/

 

Last updated: 2 Apr 2020
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.