Does it seem that when you’re in an argument with someone that the conflict tends to heat up rather than defuse? Are you unsure on what you can do to defuse an argument and bring about some sort of resolution? To help understand common mistakes people make in an argument and what you can do to defuse an argument, I have interviewed therapist Andria Jennings LCSW.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I graduated from Adelphi University with a Master’s of Social Work. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and have been working with families for nineteen years. I live in Tucson, Arizona, with my husband and two children. Currently, I have a private practice in Northwest Tucson where I provide therapy for individuals, families and couples.”
What are common mistakes people make in an argument?
“One of the biggest mistakes people make during an argument is not listening to each other. We often get so caught up in our own feelings and the need to be right that we miss the real meaning of what is being said. We all tend to view things through a unique filter of our own experiences, feelings and needs which can lead to misinterpretations and inappropriate reactions. In family counseling, I am often amazed when one person hears something entirely different from what is actually being said.
This phenomenon is especially prevalent in parent / child conflicts, but it is also present in other relationships. My advice in these situations is to check with the other person to make sure your understanding is accurate. Before getting angry ask, “I think I heard you say — is that right?” Similarly, if the other party reacts in a way that seems inappropriate to what is being said ask, “What do you think I just said?” So often miscommunication and misunderstandings lead to the escalation of an argument which otherwise could have been easily resolved.”
“Another mistake people make is just saying whatever comes to mind without thinking it through. Name-calling, insulting and intentionally saying hurtful things should be avoided at all costs. These behaviors will erode any type of relationship and are not easily forgotten once the argument is over.”
“Using absolutes such as “you always” or “you never” is also unproductive. Much of the time these generalizations become the focus instead of the issue at hand. When you start getting bogged down in tangential details the conflict remains unresolved.”
What are some things that people can do to defuse an argument?
“As I stated before, active listening can defuse an argument by making the other person feel heard. When someone knows you are trying to understand his point he is less likely to escalate the argument. Although it has almost become cliché, reflecting back the other person’s feelings can really help.”
“When an argument becomes volatile the best thing to do is take time-away. Often, taking time to compose oneself is necessary in order to resume the discussion in a more constructive way. It is imperative to agree to address the issue once both parties are calm, so the conflict does not get ignored or resurface at a later time. Also, when taking time away it is important to convey your intention before you leave so the other person does not misinterpret your exit.”
“Compromising can be used to resolve a problem. Although no one gets exactly what he wants, each person may get enough of what he needs to be satisfied.”
“Sometimes two people may have to agree to disagree. Many people can exist very happily together with different religious or political beliefs as long as they respect each other’s right to their own ideas.”
What can two people do if the issues between them are too many and they have a difficult time in defusing the argument?
“It depends on the nature of their relationship. In the workplace they can ask a supervisor or human resources representative to mediate. Another solution would be to keep interactions to a minimum and focus only on work-related issues. Sometimes if the disagreement is about work a colleague can be consulted for an impartial point-of-view.”
“In parent / child relationships, family therapy can help. A therapist can intercede when the discussion becomes too volatile or veers off course.”
“Counseling can also be beneficial to romantically involved or married couples. If they are both truly motivated they can address any number of issues, one at a time. The therapist can help prioritize their issues and keep the couple focused on conflict resolution. Communication skills can be learned and enhanced. Counseling can also help remind the participants why they are together and how they appreciate each other.”
“Sometimes there are underlying issues in a relationship that have not been directly addressed. At these times an individual might start unrelated arguments in order to express feelings of resentment without addressing the actual problem. A counselor can usually get to the root and help resolve the real issue.”
Thank you Andria for doing the interview on how to defuse an argument. For more information on Andria Jennings or her work you can check out her website on www.andriajenningslcsw.com.
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