Most people don't think arguing is a great relationship component but I disagree. In fact, I think arguments can be one of the most powerful tools we have to keep our relationships healthy. Having a good exchange of opposing ideas (with the goals of mutual respect and compromise) can be tremendously helpful. Of course there is a big difference between fighting and productive arguing. Lawyers do it every day.
Unfortunately we don't have the training and discipline lawyers do. Most of us let an issue go and grow before we address it. Then we have bad feelings backing up the "issue" giving it a twist. Instead of a useful argument we launch an attack. While the goals may vary from being right to punishment, they are far from helpful.
We all know by now, as revealed in books like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti that the two genders have a gap in communicating styles. I'd like to write a book called Men are Meatheads and Women are Puddin' Pies. Traditionally men are all about the meat; the solid substance, while women are more about the sweet, feel-good stuff. Not always, but that's what science tell us. That's why we have a hard time pursuing and surviving an argument with the opposite gender. When you throw deep emotional connection into the mix, it's all the more challenging.
Arguing with style, grace and purpose can be like poking holes in a microwave dinner before you cook it. It releases the steam so there isn't a messy explosion. Most people know some of the "rules" of healthy arguing but I'm offering my version as a reminder.
- Never engage in name-calling (like meathead or puddin' pie)
- Don't bring up past or unrelated issues (...you're discussing his spending habits and sneak in a comment about what he DIDN'T buy you last Christmas)
- Use "I" messages because your feelings are what validates the point (but don't say "I think you're a meathead" *see first item on list)
- Keep your voice under control (the neighbors would rather not know)
- Put the discussion on hold if you are angry or irrational
- Seek to find common ground, not to win
- Initiate and practice healthy arguing so that it becomes second nature and not unusual or difficult
- Always hug it out at the end!