Often, the opinions of others, even those close to us, challenge our beliefs, values, morals, experience and competence. These challenges, disagreements and misunderstandings can lead to full-blown fallouts, hurt feelings and severed relationships. Tempers flare, feathers are ruffled and blood pressure rises. But this doesn’t have to be the case. You can avoid escalations, and you can do so without feeling silenced or walked over.
An age-old proverbs says, “Prevention is better than cure.” You can’t take back words that are spoken in the heat of the moment, so why not avoid arguing entirely? Here are 10 tips you can apply (starting today!) to avoid arguments, even when you fundamentally disagree.
Check Your Motives
Before you begin to belabour your point, consider your why.
- Am I trying to be understood or prove them wrong?
- Am I trying to enlighten them or belittle them?
- Am I trying to gain from the discussion or prove my knowledge?
- Am I trying to prove they are idiotic or learn from their point-of-view?
Motives matter, check your heart before you begin to speak. The purpose of communicating should be positive: to enlighten, educate, understand, instruct, connect, and so on. If you are using your words to tear down, pierce or destroy, then you have entered the danger zone.
Proverbs 18:2 reads, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions.” It is a fact: some people argue just to argue. They argue for arguing sake. They are simply argumentative. Avoid interactions with such people. It is not worth the rise in blood pressure.
Active listening means listening to understand, not to respond. While the individual is speaking use the time to listen and understand their point of view, not to plan and mentally rehearse your rebuttal.
As you feel yourself starting to become annoyed or angry, pause and think. This will be the hardest tip to remember in times of conflict but it is key. Think before you speak. You could be saving egos, your job, your relationship. A great scripture to keep in mind to hammer this point is James 1:19, “…be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.“
Watch Your Pride
There will be times when you are wrong and they are right. Do not allow your pride and the fact that “you don’t back down” to cause unnecessary strife. Give honor where honor is due. If they are right, acknowledge so.
Perhaps the statement is a matter of opinion and not fact, and you do, in fact, disagree. Fine. You do not have to shoot them down verbally. Instead, you can softly disagree. Here are examples.
- “That is a fair point, but I have to say I disagree…”
- “I see your point, but…”
- “I’m not sure about that.”
- “I understand what you are saying, but…”
- “I’m sorry but I don’t agree.”
- “That is an interesting point, here is another way to look at it.”
In more informal settings you can say something like, “I beg to differ, but okay.” That’s it. An argumentative person may pull you in further, but you can end the discussion there.
Avoid Being Dismissive
Occasionally when I would share my opinion on a matter to my husband, he would respond “No…” then carry on with his point. This would make me feel small and insignificant as to me it read, “Your opinion does not matter.” Of course this was not his intent, but often we can be dismissive without even realizing it.
In the example I just shared, instead of leading with “No…” you can say,
- “That’s a good point, but…”
- “Yes, that is true and also…”
- “I hear you. Here’s what I think…”
Watch Your Tone
It is not always what you say, but how you say it. In person this means watch your attitude, volume and pitch.Via text, this means avoid the use of ALL CAPITALS (which comes across as shouting), and be careful how you use exclamation marks, emojis, gifs and memes.
Mind Your Mannerisms
Slamming a door can cause World World III to erupt in your home. The same with hanging up the phone, looking someone up and down, cutting your eyes, rolling your eyes, sucking your teeth, and you know the rest.
If you want to avoid conflict, don’t provoke with your words or actions.
Search Your Heart
Have you ever stopped to think why what so and so said bothered you so much? Did their comment unearth old wounds? Did they touch a sore point? The Lord may be revealing areas of your heart that still need healing or He may be planting a seed of advocacy in you.
- Check your motives
- Avoid fools and argumentative people
- Actively listen
- Take time to think
- Watch your pride
- Softly disagree
- Avoid being dismissive
- Watch your tone
- Mind your mannerisms
- Search your heart