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How to turn an argument into an opportunity

Updated on May 28, 2014

How Do Arguments Start?

No argument ever just began at the drop of a hat. There is always history behind an argument. This history generally originates from:

  • A difference in opinion
  • A previous action you disagreed with or were hurt by, possibly even by another person
  • A poor choice of words that feels like an attack
  • You do not like the other person
  • You do not trust the other person
  • This argument is a repeat of others you have faced in the past
  • You feel disappointed, angry, resentful or frustrated in a situation

Bringing Logic Back

In the midst of an argument, our adrenal glands take over, our vision sometimes blurs, our heart is pounding - your body is preparing to fight or flee!

In previous eras this was a great tool, since wars were fought almost daily, but in today's world, we fight battles of a different kind and need our faculties.

Once your adrenals take over, they emit certain hormones that block your ability to think clearly, so you are now arguing from a position of confusion and emotion, rather than fact. This is why so often we look back after an argument and regret what we've said and done or feel that things have gone too far but cannot understand why.

When you feel your heart rate increasing etc, you need to "reset" your stress levels - this is so simple, close your eyes, apply some pressure to your eyelids and take a few deep breaths.

Sometimes you are able to walk away and calm down first but there is no guarantee that your opponent will be any calmer when you return and sometimes you simply need to resolve the matter on the spot.

Now that you are calmer remember, you are both people with valid points of view that have originated form your own sets of values and experiences - neither one of you is actually right!

Who wins?

Who is most likely to win in an argument?

See results

Both Sides of an argument are RIGHT!

This can be a very difficult concept to grasp, but it is simply the truth. One of you may have made an error in calculation or misinterpreted something, but whomever that party is, is definitely not aware of this error and so believes they acting appropriately.

The error cannot be discovered if you are raging at the other person, so an argument is simply no way to resolve this and discover a means of correcting it.

Imagine if you grew up in a home where the colour of the sky is green, you are taught every day on charts etc that the colour is green. Suddenly you meet somebody new who insists that the colour is blue, not green...you have to argue of course because you know that you know that its green, your parents have taught you that your whole life....So, who is right/ if your parents say its green and their parents say its blue? who is right and who is wrong? You are BOTH right - according to your history and experiences.

Listening, Clues & Solving Mysteries

Now that you have calmed down, you need to remind yourself that most people "zone out" after just 17 seconds and do not really listen to the other person, we usually start planning our response to an argument but haven't really heard what the other side of the argument is.

So, you need to calmly tell the other person, "I'd like to resolve this and hear your side of the story, please tell me where you are coming from"

Now you have to do exactly that, listen to the other persons story, from start to finish, even if you disagree - let them get it out.

Most people will be completely taken aback and will suddenly feel like you are no longer an enemy! Suddenly you are not adversaries but teammates, working together to solve a mystery!

A difference in opinion is simply that, 2 people who have alternate views of the same situation and you can both learn from each other. Ever heard the saying, "Two heads are better than one"? This is your opportunity to use just that.

Listen to the other person's side of the story, you may just have a light bulb moment and either realise where they are coming from, or gain a piece of info you didn't have before. You may realise halfway through their explanation that it is in fact you who has misunderstood and argued unnecessarily! It also helps to understand that your adversary is in fact just a normal human being who is also trying to achieve an ordinary goal. very rarely are you dealing with some one who is vindictive and hurtful on purpose. If however you realise that the other person is exactly that, you will soon know, de-escalate the argument and simply walk away from a situation that doesn't serve you.

Once you have heard the other person's story, its much easier for you to share yours. You can now say things like, I understand where you are coming form now and I apologize, I thought / assumed/ believed you were doing X when I was doing Y and this is what I was arguing against.

Now that you have both shared your sides of the story, you can identify what is really bothering you both and can look for mutually beneficial solutions. Sometimes ALL the other person wants is to be heard and validated.

Remember to thank them for sharing their perspective with you!


Benefits of Arguments

Insight into your partner / adversary's way of thinking

Understanding your own motives

Development of a strategy to solve the underlying problems


Steps to Resolve Conflict

  1. Remember that you are both right and have your own perceptions
  2. Listen to the other person's story
  3. Keep your voice calm and your tone as consistent as possible
  4. Put yourself in their shoes, even if you disagree
  5. Consider your motives for feeling the need to argue
  6. Identify the REAL reason for the argument
  7. Look for mutually beneficial solutions to resolve the conflict


Robin Williams on Conflict

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