The argument trap:
Have you ever found yourself getting frustrated, then starting to jump to conclusions about why someone did something and thinking the absolute worst about them? Why? Are some of these people not the ones you care most about, and yet you can come up with all sorts of illogical and faulty conclusions about why they are doing what they are doing. One such thing happened on my very first legit Mother’s Day; my son was only a couple of months old and we had a great system worked out where I would get up during the night and around 6 a.m. my husband would take over. It was working really well for us. Mother’s Day rolls around and our baby started making noise just past the usual 6 a.m. hour and I waited, and waited, and waited some more for husband to get up with him, to no avail. I finally got up and played with the wee one for a while, mostly fuming and thinking about how insensitive, especially on my day, for the hubby not to get up. At one point, I took a metaphorical step back and had a moment of clarity. I was so lucky to have this baby boy and although being up at 6 after having gotten up throughout the night was not my idea of fun, I was celebrating the day because of the little life right in front of me. That gratitude allowed me to get my wits about me, cool off, and start thinking logically about my husband not getting up. I started to ask myself some questions, like, “What if he didn’t even hear him?” “I wonder if he will feel incredibly guilty when he wakes up.” Turns out, that is exactly what happened. First thing when he woke up, he came right out and apologized and felt so badly; he didn’t even hear our little dude or me getting up with him. He was so apologetic. The situation didn’t change at all, I was still exhausted and got up very early, but my attitude was completely different because knowing that my husband’s intentions were completely innocent took all the frustration out of the situation. What really frustrated me initially was the story I was creating in my mind that he was choosing to stay in bed and be a jerk on Mother’s Day. When I start to assume the worst about his intentions it causes me to act a certain way. I get inside my head, think about it too much, get cold, and standoffish. The dialog in my head elicits certain emotions that then affect the other person.
HOW TO Avoid Arguments:
The one tip you need to avoid 100% of your arguments. “Master your stories.” There is a book called Crucial Conversations, and one skill the book teaches is that there are factual things that happen in our day-to-day and most would say, as a result of those factual things, emotions are created. However, the book argues that there is a step in between that most of us overlook; an intermediate step where we tell ourselves a story. It happens so quickly almost imperceptibly, like when a person cuts you off while driving and you start a dialog in your own head. “That person must think they are more important than you, they clearly don’t care about others etc.” If you can learn to tell a different story, or at the very least consider other possibilities it can break the cycle and allow you to give the person the benefit of the doubt. When we tell ourselves these stories, we jump to unnecessary conclusions and doom a conversation before it begins. Taking control of those stories, allowing yourself to think the best of the other person completely changes the course of the conversation.
How do you do that? Easier said than done right? Sometimes the stories come pouring into your mind before you even realize and before you know it, you have already started saying things that begin an argument rather than a dialog. The book recommends one question, “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do what this person is doing?” With this question in mind you can begin to challenge those stories that lead you to think the worst, come up with some other possibilities, get yourself in your right mind and actually converse with the person before attacking. So many times when I have gotten frustrated at my husband, my mom, or a close friend, I start to think the worst about what their motives are. These are people I love and care about, rational, reasonable and decent people I, at times, think the worst of. That’s clearly not going to kick off a conversation well. If we can remember that we create our emotions, not someone else, and take a step back and separate the facts from the stories we tell ourselves, a different picture can be painted and the other person doesn’t have to start on the defense because you are already giving them the benefit of the doubt.
So in the above example, when I woke up and realized I had to get up with our son, I observe the facts; my husband didn’t get up, he usually does. Ask myself, “Why would my reasonable, rational and decent husband not have gotten up on Mother’s Day of all days, when he usually does?” Maybe he didn’t hear the baby? He usually does, but is there the possibility he didn’t this time? Absolutely. Maybe he isn’t feeling well and really needs to sleep in? All of a sudden other explanations besides, “He just doesn’t care,” come to mind and when he gets up instead of getting some chippy remark first thing in the morning like, “I’m so glad YOU got to sleep in on Mother’s Day…”, I allow him some time and he can explain himself or better yet I can start by giving him the benefit of the doubt and say, “Hey, I noticed you didn’t get up like you usually do; were you extra tired, or not feeling well, or did you not hear the baby.” A conversation that might have otherwise escalated very quickly is diffused from the get go.
Give people the benefit of the doubt:
I’d rather err on that side than assuming the worst.
Disagreeing will happen. Stress and difficulty will happen. Arguments don’t have to happen. Most important is how we respond and handle these “crucial conversations.” I grew up thinking that great couples don’t disagree or have tough conversations; they must learn how to be on the same page all the time. Not true, they learn to stay in dialog rather than argue, until they come to some kind of resolution. The way people argue, the way they are in conflict is often more telling than how they are when times are good. If we can have respectful and dignified conversations during difficult times, our relationships will be stronger for it. Brené Brown, an author, public speaker and researcher shared a profound thought from her husband, “I’ll never know if people are doing the best they can or not, but when I assume people are, it makes my life better.” I would say that when we master the negative stories about others and create a positive scenario in our minds, then real dialog has a chance; it certainly will make tough conversations easier and more productive and mitigate petty arguments.
What Tips Do YOU Have to Avoid Arguments???