Whether associated with depression or not, arguments between people are a huge source of distress in our lives. At the same time, arguing is a normal part of human existence, but I hope the following tips will minimise the distress to those involved.
Keep your voice down, everybody!
Our instinctive response in arguments is to raise our voice to emphasise how strongly we feel about what we are saying. However, such raising of the voice brings with it automatic responses within us, ranging from changes in our facial expression and body language to the production of “vibes” indicating aggression. These vibes may well be accompanied by the production of pheromones, hormones which we produce without being aware of them, and which are picked up through the sense of smell in those around us, without them being consciously aware that they are being affected by these hormones.
The automatic instinctive human response to someone else raising their voice and giving off the above signals is to do the same ourselves, leading to escalating friction and intensification of the fight.
Therefore, the simple message is that everybody can say what they have to say, but in a quiet voice. This policy allowed people to express their point of view, and even to say negative things to each other, but without the exchange becoming unconsciously magnified by unintentional invitations to fight being issued to the person with whom we are talking.
Every viewpoint has some validity
The fear that the other person does not understand our viewpoint, or is dismissing it as irrelevant or wrong often leads to arguments arising from attempts to discuss various issues between people. If voices get raised, the problem is even worse. A very useful tactic is to say to the other person something along the lines of “I understand your point of view and I will think about it”. This is particularly useful if the person with whom you are talking is saying the same thing over and over again. Such a phrase does not mean that you agree with them, but that their message has been received by you. It then is quite appropriate to add “I hope you understand and will think about my point of view which is …”.
Mutual acknowledgement of both parties points of view having been understood will hopefully allow the subject to be dropped without further hostility.
The 0 – 10 scale
When two people have different opinions as to how to handle a particular situation, where to go for a social arrangement etc, the following technique can be quite useful in avoiding angry exchanges or raised voices in trying to emphasise how strongly we each feel about the situation. Whether it be which restaurant or movie to go to, or which school a child should attend, what is needed is a way of easily establishing of how strongly each party feels about his or her viewpoint. Therefore asking each other to rate how strongly you hold your viewpoint on a 0-10 scale is very useful.
This of course requires that both parties be honest! You cannot have a 9 out of 10 strength of opinion about everything. If one person feels much more strongly about a particular choice than the other, it would seem appropriate to go along with the more strongly held viewpoint, unless one person is continuously coming up with the highest rating, so that there is no equal power in the relationship. If both people involved have equal ratings, then maybe it can be taken in turns to make decision in such a scenario, or even something as simple as tossing a coin may prevent an argument and hurt feelings. What not try it and see? Using numbers to transmit your feels is presumably better than raising your voice!
Dropping the subject
Once both parties have expressed their opinions, and have received some indication that their point of view is understood, it is often very useful to then suggest that the subject will not be discussed any further, until both people have really had time to let their emotions settle and even think about what has been said. Phrases such as “Let’s drop the subject so that we don’t argue”, or “Let’s agree to have different opinions for the time being”, are a useful way of dropping unpleasant subjects without leading to more friction. It is a good idea to then raise another topic, to avoid subsequent deadly/hostile silence!
These techniques of conflict resolution can be applied in a whole range of situations whether it be with a partner, a colleague at work or a disagreement between teenagers and parents.