5 ways to…have a healthy argument

Healthy conflict detox

There’s no such thing as a world without disagreements, but they don’t have to be harmful. Conflict can lead to creative solutions and positive change, so long as it doesn’t turn toxic. By recognizing toxicity and removing the root cause, we can turn a heated argument into a constructive debate.

  1. Recognize the signs. Reflect on disagreements that have turned sour in the past, and what that looks and feels like for you. Shouting, sulking, slammed doors and stonewalling are some of the indications that a conflict has turned toxic and it’s time to take action.
  2. Aim for adult. Psychologists have identified three roles we can slip into during conflict: parent, child or adult. These dictate how we think, communicate and interact. While the parent role can be overly controlling or smothering, and the child role can be unpredictable or needy, the adult role is logical, measured and focused on problem solving – a healthy style to adopt.
  3. Press pause. When the stakes are high it’s easy for emotions to take hold – but more often than not, they’re dysfunctional. When you feel yourself getting drawn into toxicity, pause the conversation and create some breathing room. Return to it when you’ve re-established a rational, adult mindset.
  4. Turn towards. Conflicts become toxic when people don’t feel heard. Listen intently, and use the phrase ‘yes, and…’ to build on their point of view and communicate your own, without seeming defensive. Remember your aim: to find a balanced resolution, not win the argument at any cost.
  5. Find the meaning. It’s difficult to express ourselves effectively when hooked in an argument. Look beyond the other person’s exact words or tone, and use ‘qualified agreement’ to build bridges: identify and agree with the overall sentiment they’re trying to convey, if not the statement itself. You’re more likely to discover common ground which will steer you towards a healthy resolution.
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