By Crystal Hubbell, LPCC-S
Have you ever avoided going to family functions because of that one irritating family member or friend? Do you keep to yourself because Uncle Dave brings up politics with you even though you have nothing to say to him? Do you have that one friend that constantly shares their beliefs and world view on you, instigating you into a conversation which inevitably ends up in an argument in which you feel exhausted and stressed? Do these situations make you want to stay home for the holidays and avoid any an all arguments? I feel the same way, but there are proven techniques that can help you in conversation to de-escalate a situation and even make it go away. Try some of these handy phrases with your next overly exuberant relative or friend and see if it doesn’t calm him/her down.
According to Shira Offer “Difficult people are likely to be found in contexts where people have less freedom to pick and choose their associates,” Offer noted these individuals are usually people “with whom our lives are so complexly intertwined,” like family members and coworkers. “Social norms do not allow us to simply walk away from them, however much this might be tempting to do sometimes,” she wrote. Because of that, we need to find ways to navigate conflicts gracefully (Duan, 2018).
“Arguments are a part of most relationships, friendships, and workplaces. Humans are social creatures, and inevitably we will come across a person’s perspective or a topic area with which we disagree. While we try our best to be respectful, it can be difficult keeping things neutral” (John M. Grohol, 2016).
Below are some proven techniques that will help you defuse an argument. You may not WIN the argument, but you may still be friends when it is all over.
1) Take a breath and pause. There are no rules that say you must respond immediately, especially if you feel attacked. Stop for a minute, pause and think about why the person is saying what they are saying. Disagreeing just for the sake of fighting back gets you know where. Pause, count to 3 or 10 if you must, to calibrate your responses.
2) Listen! No, REALLY listen. Practice on your family members by reflection. After someone says something reply with; “It sounds like you are going though….” Or “I hear you saying…” When someone feels like you are listening and really hearing them, they feel validated. Listening is not the same as consent. You do not have to agree with a person to listen to them.
3) Express appreciation for their opinions. Express how much you appreciate the other person’s point of view and establish respect for their opinion, though different from your own. Compliment them on how passionate they are for their concerns on the matter.
4) Agree with at least one thing said. When in a heated discussion, you can find one thing the person has said that you can agree with and share with them. This can be as small as stating “I agree this topic can be tough to navigate for people” This removes the need for the person to dig his/her heals in. This also shows you are not determined to burry them with your own thoughts and opinions but rather you care about their point of views too. After you find common ground you can disagree respectfully.
5) There doesn’t have to be a winner. Decide early on the value of the conversation, realizing that there doesn’t have to be a winner, nor do you have to agree with something you feel passionate about. Realizing it is ok to not agree with someone and ok to not WIN the person over to your side, is OK. You can go home the same person, without giving up your convictions but may learn something from someone else in the process.
6) Be confident in who you are. Sometimes people who are passionate about their arguments, may tend to get personal with their digs and insults because of their passion. Don’t take it personally. Know who you are, what you stand for and express to the person you are interested in what they have to say. Thank them for sharing their point of view and giving you something to think about. Don’t get caught up in the emotions of what was said.
Duan, C. (2018, February 13). How to De-Escalate Conflict in Any Situation. Retrieved from The Wire: https://www.rewire.org/living/de-escalate-conflict/
John M. Grohol, P. (2016, July 12). 6 Tips for De-Escalating an Argument. Retrieved from Psychcentral: https://psychcentral.com/blog/6-tips-for-de-escalating-an-argument/