6 ways to master an argument from filtering chats to wise timing and banishing blame

Let’s face it – we are a nation addicted to watching other people arguing.

The return of Love Island next month will have us glued to all the latest fallouts and bust-ups. After all, Faye and Teddy’s fiery fight in the villa last summer sparked a record 25,000 Ofcom complaints.

When it comes to problems in our own lives, some of us take the royal family’s “stiff upper lip” approach – if we ignore something for long enough, perhaps it’ll disappear. Just look at the supposed ongoing feud between Princes William and Harry.

Others, like the Kardashians, seem to revel in confrontation. Who can forget the infamous “slapgate”, when Kim and Kourtney’s bickering became so heated it turned physical?

Arguments happen easily, but when not dealt with properly, can lead to simmering tensions and grudges that can last for a long time.

Relationship expert Neil Wilkie, founder of online couples therapy platform The Relationship Paradigm, says that feuds, whether between family, friends or partners are often triggered by a minor incident.

“The origins of the argument tend to fester and grow, leading to people getting into ‘defence’ mode, which quickly escalates the row,” he says. “It’s fight, flight or freeze time – freeze being where the blood supply to the brain and ears is reduced, and the ability to listen and understand is compromised.”

Here, Neil reveals six ways you can have a healthy argument and tackle disagreements in an effective manner.

1 Choose your time wisely

“Create a time and space where you’ll be listened to and understood. The focus must be on the underlying feelings and blame removed so, in other words, take your time and try to explain why you’re feeling stressed.

Perhaps they are upset because you didn’t load the dishwasher, or you keep leaving wet towels on the bed. Address this first, as these issues often fester and can be the cause of a major blowout further down the line.”

2 Schedule a ‘state of union’ meeting

“Setting aside an hour a week for a ‘state of union’ meeting could be a huge help. Share three good things you’ve each noticed in the relationship that week and one thing that could be even better. Agree what you’re both going to work on the following week.”

3 Talk about the good things

“Every night, share three good things that have happened to you that day. This will get both your subconscious minds into a positive frame before sleeping and allow the subconscious to filter out unnecessary and unimportant differences.”

4 Take a time-out

“If you’re arguing and feel yourself getting activated, and the adrenaline is flowing, it’s handy to have a ‘pause’ signal that both sides will recognise. Take a break for at least 20 minutes, then return to the discussion. When you’ve calmed down, you can process what’s being said.”

5 Express your feelings

“Give each other 20 minutes to express your feelings on the subject. Listen intently, mindful of the real feelings. At the end of 20 minutes say something like, ‘I understand that you feel this way about X because of Y.’”

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6 Don’t go to sleep mid-fight

“Going to sleep on an argument isn’t productive unless you both agree the discussion will continue after all parties have had a good night’s sleep. If the adrenaline is still flowing and you’re feeling angry, you’re likely to wake up with an even more entrenched position and things will get worse.”

Argument myths busted

Neil calls out the common misconceptions about disputes

Myth 1: Get drunk to help you vent your true feelings

“It really doesn’t help. Many arguments are fuelled by drinking as it loosens inhibitions, but alcohol also disconnects you from logic and emotional intelligence. Many arguments are regretted when sober.”

Myth 2: It will all be forgotten the next day

“No! The brain has an infinite capacity to remember. The subconscious will be processing past arguments and trying to create patterns from them. Arguments need to be calmly discussed in order to understand each other’s feelings and see if a resolution is possible.”

Myth 3: People who really love each other never argue

“This isn’t the case. If arguments are suppressed, a relationship will wither. If you truly love someone you can be honest with each other and celebrate the differences rather than suppress them.”

Myth 4: The person who shouts the loudest will win the argument

“If you have to shout louder to try and win the argument, you need to find a better argument!”

Myth 5: Arguments are a competition to judge who’s the cleverest

“You are in a relationship, not a debating society. There is no right and there are no prizes!”

Myth 6: Everything can always be resolved

“Seek to understand, not to persuade. This is the key to having healthy discussions and a healthy relationship.”

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