We have all experienced a disagreement with someone. Sometimes the disagreement is mild. Other times it is a full fledged argument. What causes a disagreement to escalate to something more emotional like an argument?

When the disagreement escalates, a natural tendency during the escalation is to polarize against each other. The longer the disagreement the more polar it becomes. I find myself doing this with my family more than I want to admit. It’s as if I believe that the more I dig in my heals the closer I will get to winning the argument. In fact, I am not getting closer I am getting further from winning.

Trying to make my case by going the opposite direction usually works against my position and for my opponent. I start grasping for straws and those straws get thinner and thinner. Many times this causes the other person to get angry and go radical toward their position. The argument gets heated.

One of the best public examples of this is in politics. If one party proposes a plan, the opposing party will counter the plan with something completely different. I’ve seen this happen not because the other plan is better but simply because it is different. The more one party argues their plan the more the other party argues theirs. Neither party considers how the two plans can come together.

Sometimes I (well . . . hardly ever, well . . . almost never, well . . . I hear this happens to other people) will realize after digging in my heals that I am wrong. This happens to me when I am being selfish or get emotionally attached to the argument.

What can you do during an emotionally charged disagreement (aka argument)?

  • Don’t beat yourself up. Recognize that it is a natural tendency for humans to disagree. We all have individual thoughts and want other people to think like us. Sometimes other people have good ideas too. When you realize that you are arguing, decide how you are going to handle it.
  • Take a minute and breath. Take a mental time-out. If possible ask if you can have a minute. Collect your thoughts and prepare to bring this argument to a resolution.
  • Grow up. Look at the other person’s opinion objectively. Except for politicians, people don’t generally argue just for the sake of the fight. Your opposition probably has at least a component to their argument that is valid (probably more).
  • Work together.Find how the two opinions are similar and work toward coming to the middle.
    • Your opponent is not going to jump to this as quickly as you are. First genuinely recognize the good points your opponent has. Reiterate to your opponent their good points until they feel that you understand their position. Only then should you try to explain your position.
    • Recognize that some of your argument will need to be thrown out so that you can find common ground together. Are you trying to win the argument or are you trying to find a way to agree?
  • Develop a win-win attitude. Invite your opponent to come to the middle of the argument with you. Take a little of their idea and a little of your idea (you will probably take more of theirs so that you can both win). Think about what is similar rather than focusing on the differences.

The right frame of mind comes in a quote from Abraham Lincoln when he said, If you want to destroy your enemy, make a friend of him.

Another great quote comes from William Hazlitt when he said, Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves.

Finding how you can agree will maintain and even grow your relationships.  Isn’t that what it is all about?

Have you had an argument that you couldn’t resolve? What techniques have you used to dismantle an argument?