Much of the time, arguments only become a problem if both sides fail to tolerate each other. Things can only escalate if both parties become locked in to a reaction to what the other side has just said.
Here is a way of handling arguments by means of a game. This game has three stages.
Here is the game, applied to an argument between person A and person B.
- Person A gets to state, clearly, their point of view about something.
- Person B gets to reply, clearly stating their point of view, which can be either agreement, disagreement, or ‘there’s more to discuss another time’.
- Person A accepts that person B has responded.
That’s it. End of conversation.
The cycle then gets repeated with other topics, but, just for the moment, each topic is only given one round of the 1-2-3. Nothing is escalated.
This simple technique can be used in relationship therapy to practice not escalating arguments. The reason it works, is because the rules train the parties to keep things short, sweet and tolerant.
By getting used to a statement-reply-acceptance format, a couple can learn to move away from escalation, freeing up time for other things.
IF IT’S JUST YOU
Outside relationship therapy, individuals have the problem of how they can handle arguments without the overt cooperation of the other, who may indeed be quite provoking.
The key thing we can still practice, is stage 3 – acceptance that the other person has responded. Usually, we can’t wait to get back in there with our retort to the other person’s comment, as though life itself depended on it. The difference here is that we train ourselves to accept that the other person has spoken, and move on. If you like, we are managing our response.
THE BENEFITS OF THE ACCEPTANCE TECHNIQUE
Arguments and tension can be perpetuated well beyond the discussion itself, because we can hold in our heads, and replay, the issues. We can even wake up at night feeling a sense of injustice, and turning things over in our heads.
But if we can train ourselves to accept that the other has responded, we can use that acceptance to give ourselves some peace. We can still come back to them another time, but we are able to walk away and live a reasonable life in between.