Q:  How do you avoid an argument with a loved one?

A:  Although conflicts are not pleasant, they are critical to the growth of a relationship.  Conflicts arise when one or both partners is not getting his/her needs met.  Avoiding such a conflict fuels resentment and anger, harming the relationship.  Addressing it, however, allows each partner the chance to express needs and work together toward a peaceful resolution, thus strengthening the relationship.

If a situation has occurred in your relationship that made you angry, don’t avoid it – deal with it.  Follow the tips below to deal with anger and conflict effectively:

  • Take “time out” – remove yourself from the situation that has angered you to allow yourself a chance to calm down and put things in perspective.

  • Find the source – during this ‘time-out’, determine exactly what it was that upset you (i.e. a behavior, a statement) and the impact this incident had on you (i.e. it made you angry, sad, fearful); finally, determine some strategies that might prevent this situation from occurring in the future.

  • Deal with the conflict – once you have regained composure and put the situation into perspective, it’s time to confront and address the issue with your partner.  Avoid statements that attack (i.e. “You never…” “You are such a…”) these will only make your partner feel threatened and defensive.  Rather, take responsibility for your statements by using “I-messages” (i.e. “I need…” “I feel…”) which are more likely to elicit a helpful response from your partner.  Dealing with the issue should consist of three parts: 1) specifically state the situation that caused the conflict (“This is what happened…” 2) describe the effect the situation had on you (“This is how I felt…” and 3) suggest some ways to prevent this conflict from arising in the future (“This is what I want/need…”).

  • Be an active listener – effective communication is not just about expression, it also requires good listening skills.  To enhance your listening skills, try the following: 1) be attentive to what your partner says to you, 2) paraphrase what you heard to ensure that you understood the message, 3) ask questions to improve understanding, and 4) identify your partners feelings as well as the words.