Conflicts and quarrels aren't exactly the highlight of most relationships because it's stressful and emotionally exhausting to fight with those close to you. That being said, they're pretty much bound to happen from time to time if your relationship lasts long enough. Everyone has disagreements and miscommunications and bad days sometimes. The way you fight, however, is important. And you might be able to take a few cues from the past in order to fight in a better way. There are a variety of old-fashioned ways to end an argument that we should bring back that seem to have fallen a bit out of favor, but are still good advice and work just as well today as they used to.
"I think things have changed in relationships generationally and these days roles are a little less clear so communication becomes even more important as well as the ability to compromise," Julie Bjelland, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper by email. "To compromise well, both people need to express what their need is and then give and take a little to be able to meet in the middle. There are areas we can be flexible and there are also areas we cannot be flexible depending on what our core need is."
Getting to the end of an argument, whether it's a compromise or not, can be difficult, but these old-school communication techniques can help you out.
1. Apologize When You've Done Something Wrong
It sounds pretty basic, but apologizing when you've done something wrong really can bring about the end of an argument sooner and people don't always apologize when they should. Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University, told The Atlantic that women tend to think apologies are really important, while men feel as though apologizing means giving up their power. Understanding how people view apologies can help you figure out what they're thinking when you apologize, which can further minimize the potential for miscommunication and misunderstandings. Sometimes a simple 'I'm sorry' can make a huge difference.
2. "Perhaps You're Right"
"My grandmother had the best way to end an argument," communication and leadership expert Nancy Cramer tells Romper by email. "She would always say, 'Perhaps you're right.' This is brilliant because she is not saying you are right." It's an easy way to end a fight quickly while still allowing the other person to think that they're right, even if, in your opinion, they're not.
3. Call For A Time Out
Time outs aren't just for little ones who act out of turn, they can help you when you're in the midst of an argument, as well.
"Deciding to take a break from the other person and the conversation allows each person to regroup, collect their thoughts and return at a mutually agreed upon time," Fabiola Paul, MSW, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Romper by email. You'll both come back to the conversation with clearer heads.
4. Determine Ground Rules
Setting some rules when you're arguing with someone, whether it's your partner or a roommate, can help keep things in check.
"Establishing limits and boundaries is fundamental to exercising containment and mindfulness," Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Romper via email. "This essentially means removing threats, humiliation, and sundry forms of emotional violence and disrespect. For couples who need additional support with impulse control, identifying a tangible cue to communicate that they are heading towards that point of no return can be very helpful."
Rules like only fighting for a certain amount of time or not raising your voices might help you fight more fairly and bring about an end to the argument more quickly.
5. Practice Active Listening
Really listening to the person you're arguing with is pretty important if you're hoping to actually resolve things.
"Arguments arise out of the frustration of feeling unheard, misunderstood, invalidated, or all of the above," Julie Fischer, LPC, NCC, MSE, a licensed professional counselor, tells Romper in an email exchange. "Therefore, conflict resolution begins with entering into conversations with the intention of understanding one another vs the intention of 'proving your point' or being right...something that rarely happens in today's divisive climate."
Fischer says that listening without interrupting and focusing on what they're really saying is something that has to be developed. It'll get easier with practice.
6. Agree To Disagree
"Being able to hear the person out and trying to understand their point of view, even if you don't agree, will allow each person to feel heard," Paul says. "This way no feels like they've 'won' or 'lost' and each person can end the argument and move on without it negatively impacting the relationship."
Agreeing to disagree can sometimes be the best way to end an argument, particularly one that's all about opinions. You might not be able to change someone's mind that green is a better color than purple, but you can respect that that's their favorite.
7. Don't Go To Bed Angry
"It's important for couples to talk about things as they occur to prevent explosive arguments," Nedra Glover Tawwab, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Romper by email. "Couples [abandoning] their bed to head for the couch fuels resentment and further frustration." Though not going to bed angry might not end a fight immediately, it can bring about an end something that could otherwise morph into a more drawn-out issue.
Ending arguments isn't always any easier than bringing up the issue and starting the argument in the first place, but using techniques you may have learned in the past really could help you settle things more quickly and with much greater clarity.