How to communicate more healthily, a different perspective on an argument
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
A heated argument can help release pent up frustrations and ensure there’s no need to hold on to resentments. The key to success is how you communicate.
An argument is defined as an oral, angry disagreement or discussion in which people express different opinions about something.
At its best, an argument is simply an opportunity for two people to express their views. Even if an argument is heated, it can help release pent up frustrations and ensure there’s no need to hold on to resentments. In order for this to work, it's important that both parties communicate from an adult perspective, are able to have their say, and feel heard. This often doesn’t work because of learnt or adopted unhealthy behaviour that can lead to a breakdown in relationship.
It's important that both parties communicate from an adult perspective, are able to have their say, and feel heard.
An unhealthy argument
Take, for example a scenario where someone is more dominant or controlling than the other. For instance, imagine a parent shouting at their child or teenager and telling them that they're being selfish, and should instead do what’s right (in the parent's eyes of course). The child may be going through many different emotions including feeling angry, sad, confused and vulnerable – when all they ultimately want is to feel loved and safe. Unfortunately, many parents are ill equipped to deal with defensiveness, silence or any other behaviours that may present themselves in a less than functional situation.
There are some fundamental flaws in this scenario:
a) it is not an argument because the child or our inner child feels unable to express their needs
b) the parent is unable to see things from the child's perspective
c) it is not the job of the parent to try to counsel their own child, even if they are trained in this way.
Empowering the child (including your own, inner child)
Imagine what would happen if, instead, the child was given the opportunity to express their emotions, and was able to communicate and feel heard. It would surely be more empowering, and enable the child to avoid feeling like a victim. It would help encourage them to develop skills in putting forward an effective argument. And this may well help them develop healthier relationships in future - both on a personal and work level.
How we get our point across
If, as the communicator, you're not getting your argument across effectively, then it’s your responsibility to look at how to hone the required skills. Firstly, getting your point across is more than just a verbal dialogue. You communicate with your body, tonality and eye contact. To be aware of how you hold your body, when you raise your voice, and if you are able to look someone in the eye, is a step closer to being able to adapt your body language to increase rapport and help yourself be heard.
What you cannot change is the way the other person responds or reacts. So if you increase your awareness of the impact your own behaviour has on someone else, you're then in a position to make a different, or healthier choice. This may, in turn, change the reaction of the other person.
Firstly, it’s important to realise when someone is not reacting well to something you’re saying. Secondly, you need to be aware of whether you’re expressing yourself from years of pent up frustration that’s inappropriate to the present situation or person. If you recognise that this is what’s happening, it may indicate that some expertise or external help in releasing suppressed emotional responses may be needed.
When you can let go and not take someone else’s anger personally, and instead just see it as anger being expressed, it can help relieve the tension that often builds up in a heated debate.
How to know when you may need help
Looking back to your childhood can help you understand some strategies and learnt behaviours you may have adopted over time. For example, you may have had a parent who was dominant, came from an era of “Do what you’re told”, or even had an overprotective parent. All these things may have lead to an inability to put forward a healthy argument or to communicate effectively.
In this case it may help to express old resentments in a safe environment, without being caught up in a battle of wills or a conflict of personalities.
Many creative solutions exist if you have a willingness to learn and adopt a different approach. They often need a great deal of patience and practice.
A few examples of therapeutic approaches I’ve found useful are:
Counselling and psychotherapy
Emotional Freedom technique
Imago relationship therapy
Key steps to a healthy argument:
Agree to disagree (this is easier said than done)
Resist the urge to take things personally
Give the other person time to have their say
Understand there are often two valid sides
Enjoy the process of releasing and letting go
The ability to see both sides of the argument
When you realise you don’t have to agree with someone else’s opinion, or make someone believe your side of an argument, it takes away the belief that there’s a right or wrong way. There are just different ways, and differences of opinion. When you can let go and not take someone else’s anger personally, and instead just see it as anger being expressed, it can help relieve the tension that often builds up in a heated debate.
Often the other party just needs to be able to express how they feel and sometimes what they need. Refraining from jumping in to argue your point helps the other person to feel validated, listened to and may help the listener to step into the other person’s shoes for a moment. Reflecting back what you heard word for word gives the other person time to either clarify or change what was said. Also asking if they want to say any more, enables any misunderstandings to be resolved and gives an opportunity to fully express. When we’ve had an opportunity to communicate our feelings, we’re more likely to be in a place to hear what the other person needs to say.
Learn to enjoy a heated discussion instead of taking in personally or making it personal.
When you can enjoy the process, it can offer a sense of relief that helps you feel calmer and more at ease with yourself. This can also change the way others respond in your presence.
It may sound easy, but it does require diligence, discipline and self-awareness. The first thing is to be willing to make changes, let go of old ways of being, and to be patient with yourself and the process. It also helps to have some support, expertise and guidance from someone who knows the challenges and pitfalls along the way. The result will be the ability to grow and learn from experiences and situations that may not seem like it at the time, but ultimately are gifts.
If you would like help to release past trauma and learn to improve your communication skills, Gill offers one to one Journey work.
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