Q: Whenever I argue with someone — even if I was feeling in control before it started — I let my emotions get the best of me. I’ll tear up, my voice will waver, or I’ll feel like I need to yell to be heard. I know this isn’t the best way to get my point across. How can I stay calm during an argument?
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A: Focus, focus, focus. As much as you possibly can, focus on your objective. What are you trying to achieve in this argument? What would be a positive outcome for you? Keep your eye on that prize and you won’t be easily sidetracked.
Focusing on an objective enables you to avoid making personal attacks. Say you’re arguing with your mom. If you’re upset with her position, your emotions may prod you to bring up similar conflicts you’ve had in the past. But that’s not productive. It’ll just make both of you more frustrated and won’t get you any closer to your goal.
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Another tactic is to take a pause whenever you feel like you’re becoming out of control. Suggest to the person you’re arguing with that you continue the conversation another time. This is especially helpful when the argument is a spur-of-the-moment one. Take a break, and use that time to think through your points, maybe even writing them out. That will help you present them in an organized way the next time you speak.
You also have to recognize that some arguments are just un-winnable. You can’t pound your fists against a brick wall forever. If the person opposite you is immovable or dismissive of your opinions, it will save you a lot of grief to just let it go.
If you need advice, ask your question in the comments, and it may be featured in an upcoming column.
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