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Three Ways to Diffuse an Argument

Couple eyes closed sitting down

"Sometimes, silence is the best way to win an argument."

- Jorge P. Guerrero

We have all been there. You are so angry, you can't think straight and the words just flow out of your mouth without a thought. This can get you into trouble. Anger isn't a bad thing, but how we react/respond to it can be. It's okay to be mad, but so often when we get to that space do we end up looking back and asking ourselves, "Why did I say that?" When we get this angry, we are listening to respond instead of understand the other person. At that point, the conversation is never productive and typically causes more harm than good. So how can you end the argument before it gets to this point?

1. Pay attention to your internal signs. Everyone is different. For one person this may be that they can't stop focusing on why they are so angry. For another person, it may look like they are having a hard time breathing, or they are noticing tension in their fists. Those are good signs that you may need to take a break from the argument before you lose control and begin to say or do things you'll regret.

2. Verbally say that you would like time to process and talk later, or that you want to take a break and continue at a later time. Sometimes it can be difficult to do this and easier to just walk away; however, this may give the other person the wrong idea and may potentially cause more hurt feelings. If the other person isn't respecting the fact that you need space, it is okay to take a break together in silence.

3. Communicate that you do want to talk later and make an effort to do so. Sometimes when we take a break but we don't say we want to talk later, it can give the impression that you are no longer interested in fixing the problem. Other times when you make it clear, it can be difficult to actually come back and finish the conversation, so the problem ends up lingering and doesn't get respolved.

If you are coming back from the argument and are ready to talk...

  • Remember to listen and validate the other person's point of view. This will help you understand them more and give them more desire to hear you because they feel heard.

  • Remember to apologize. It doesn't mean that you are wrong. It just means you are sorry you hurt the other person - and if you care about them, that is probably true.