Happy Holidays and Healthy Arguing!

by

Look familiar?

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of your family’s dispute – trying desperately to calm the storm on both sides of an argument?  Whether your answer is yes or no, you can take comfort in the fact that people across all generations, classes and races have some type of recurring conflict in their family; and they often flare up – especially during the holidays.  Failed relationships, troubled family members, death, tough financial times and a myriad of other issues all add to a family’s stress level and inability to maintain healthy relationships.  Unfortunately this leads to arguments, disagreements and sometimes not communicating at all.  When these types of things happen in my family, I’m often tempted to try to solve the issue or run to comfort people on one or both sides of the issue.  What I didn’t know for a long time is that this isn’t the best solution!  Instead of always trying to solve the issue for the dueling pair – I should step back and let them work it out.  By stepping into the argument, I have triangulated myself into the problem.  And, instead of forcing those two to come to an agreement or an agreement to disagree, I have enabled them to let me work it out – never forcing them to develop the skill of arguing effectively.  The Healthy Marriage Handbook offers several tips that are essential  for arguing effectively with spouses – but if you think about it these tips really apply to any relationship argument – especially your family.  Here are a few that I think are important:

1) Describe your feelings using “I” instead of starting with “you….”.

2)  Focus on the specific and current behavior , and don’t label the person in a bad way.

3)  Use kind words and a kind tone of voice.

4)  Don’t keep things inside until you feel filled up and then dump everything out at once.

5)  Don’t fight dirty, i.e. physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive.

6) Don’t give the silent treatment.

7) Chill out!  If your “stress response” has kicked in, it’s only going to get worse.  Take a break, disengage, and re-visit the issue when you can think clearly and act reasonably.

Perhaps next time instead of trying to solve the problem, I can teach the arguers (after the argument) how to argue more effectively and keep the health of the relationship in mind.

Happy Holidays and Healthy Arguing to all!!

Charlsey Mahle

GRA, Auburn University

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