Avoiding Arguments as a Couple

« Back

Sep 24th, 12
Avoiding Arguments as a Couple

Avoiding Arguments as a Couple

Dr. Marty Seitz

In my counseling with couples, I often hear the question, ďHow can we keep from getting into arguments all the time? We never have a calm discussion.Ē While no one has a proven method for guaranteeing that a discussion wonít become an argument, Iíve found some specific behaviors that can help couples keep important talks productive.

For starters, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has a valuable bit of advice that is adaptable for couples in conversation. AA uses the acronym HALT to remind its members how to avoid getting too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired because those states increase the probability that a person will give in to temptation. For couples to avoid arguments, neither should be hungry and/or tired because hungry and/or tired people tend to be more irritable and less reasonable. Postpone important conversations until both of you are rested and have had something to eat.

Another tip that comes from the therapy trade is that both persons in a discussion should be sitting down. Iíve found that most arguments occur when one or both people are standing up. Why? Because standing prepares a person to fight or flee. Sitting prepares a person to talk and listen. Negotiations are conducted while parties are seated; debates are conducted while standing. Sometimes, if possible, couples might actually find sitting on the floor helpful while having important conversations. Getting angry is much more difficult when sitting.

People are also less likely to get angry when they believe their concerns are understood. Anger tends to be diffused if each party in a discussion listens and digests what the other person has said so well that he or she can summarize out loud the other personís main points before sharing his or her own. This communication technique has been called reflecting and empathic or active listening. Someone has recommended that we all try to discover the other personís point of view before defending our own.

Finally, one of the most helpful things you can do when you are in a serious discussion with another person or persons is to give them a spoonful of sugar with any negative statement. In one sense, reflecting what you understand the other person to have said is one way to give them something sweet to their ears and heart. We all long to be understood. Other forms of sweetness include (1) giving genuine compliments, affirmations, or thanks;(2) pointing out common ground, common interests, or common goals; and, (3) accepting some of the other personís influence by agreeing with one or more of his or her points or by conceding a point.

So if and when you head into a serious discussion with someone, remember to RESST: be Rested, Eat something ahead of time, Sit down, show you have understood the other personís point of view by Summarizing periodically, and say something positive early in the conversation, including Thanks.





Thank the person, giving something positive

Dr. Marty Seitz is an Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Asbury University where he has taught since 1989. He got his BA in psychology from Asbury University, studied at Asbury Theological Seminary, got a masterís degree in Community Counseling and a doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology from Georgia State University. In addition to his teaching, he has practiced as a licensed psychologist in Lexington since 1989, doing individual and couplesí counseling and has been working with the Access Wellness Group since its inception.

« Back