Managing arguments

You can manage arguments by making things less urgent, listening, slowing down, being generous, and giving time.  In extremis, you can take a break and go for a drive!  Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Arguments happen when behaviour, actions or perspectives diverge.  The divergence causes conflict, and the conflict affects the communication.

One of the best ways to start an argument between people is to make them share limited resources.  Take a family, and starve them of money.  Take an army, and starve it of logistical support.  Take any organisation, and starve it of facilities and opportunities to organise.  All these things increase the likelihood of arguments.

It is, however, not always possible to increase resource levels.  Sometimes we have to get by on less.  In these cases, to defuse arguments, we have to use different tactics.  Here are a few:

  1. Delay – few things have to be done exactly now.  Many arguments are caused by a false sense of urgency.  People will even manipulate to make things seem urgent.  But they often aren’t.  Scheduling when things will next be attended to, is often enough to calm things down.  The diary can be a best friend.
  2. Listening – simple listening is an excellent default tactic.  It has the advantage of being non-confrontational; and a second advantage of letting the other person let off steam.
  3. Slowing down – the false sense of hurry that arguments generate, can be reduced by deliberately, but gently, slowing down the pace of your movement and conversation.  This will have the effect of encouraging the other person to mimic your behaviour, and you can both slow down and relax.
  4. Small gifts – small acts of generosity can have a major effect on an argument.  Even offering a cup of tea can take the pressure off, because it creates a symbolic gesture designed to show goodwill.  Goodwill reduces threat, and increases a sense of safety.
  5. Giving time – most pressure dissipates over time.  Few people can sustain a very high emotional temperature without a break.  Time can either be given in your presence (by being present and demonstrating calmness); or, in extreme situations, time can be given by removing yourself from the situation, and explaining that you will return later.


When I argue with peope, the blood rushes to my head, and I get overexcited.  This makes further argument more likely.

Can I choose the peaceful route?

  • Can I negotiate delay of anything that is not truly urgent?
  • Can I take the time to listen to the other person?
  • Can I slow down my behaviour, creating a gentle atmosphere?
  • Can I be generous, and offer a bit of relaxation or luxury?
  • Can I give the argument time to dissipate?  Maybe I can stay present and let the energy flow until it balances.  Or maybe I can give someone time to contemplate things without me, just for a period.
Can I bring peace to difficult situations?  Someone has to.