Blog Entry

Three Surprising Things That (According to Research) You Are Probably Doing to Escalate an Argument

Escalating an argument with your partner is a terrible way to increase feelings of love and connection. Most couples work hard to avoid doing that. In fact, a hallmark of happy couples is that they enter into an argument slowly, and exit quickly. (For clarification, I am talking about non-productive or hurtful arguments, not playful arguments about whether pizza is better than sushi. Is there really a debate here?) Arguments are a fact of any relationship and healthy couples do their best to make them as positive as possible.

When your relationship with your significant other is going well, it impacts every area of your life in a positive way. Conversely, when it isn't going well, it can be very distracting and make it hard to be effective in the other important areas of your life.

Our goal at The Connection App is to help people experience more love and joy everyday by helping them eliminate unhealthy relationship habits and replace them with the Connection Habits. We make it easy and fun to do the actions that lead to intimacy, connection, and trust by “gamifying” working on your relationship. As you do our Relationship Challenges, not only will you feel more connected and be developing the habits that lead to a lifetime of love, you will also earn cool rewards and entries to win great prizes, like a cruise to San Diego (our current prize). We have launched our free App and it is available now on Google Play and the App Store.

The App is also full of great research-backed information about how to stay on the positive side of your partner, such as what escalates an argument and what gets you out fast. So, if you want to avoid making an argument even worse, avoid doing the things below. They may seem like a good idea at the time, but after watching couples interact for 40 years, Dr. John Gottman and his team of researchers are pretty clear about what things aren't going to help you during an argument.

I found these 3 things in particular to be quite surprising and counter-intuitive:

1. Appealing to Logic

I find this first one so curious. Why doesn't this work? If we just examine the problem logically then the argument should be over, right? I think the issue here is that regardless of how sound your logic is, you are using it to try and win the argument, which means that your partner has to lose the argument. Even if you are successful in pleading your case, the end result is still hurt feelings and a loss of connection. Whatever the reason that this doesn't work, this is one that won't help you move from the attack & defend tactics of an argument to collaborating together to create an outcome that works for all.

2. I Agree... But

Oh, that nasty little word. “You made an excellent point there, however (same as but) here is where you went wrong...” As soon as you add that word, you are ensuring the argument will continue. It is kinda like saying “Hey, let's go for Pizza” and your partner says “Sure, I will call our Sushi place and make a reservation.” It started with what seemed like agreement, but then went somewhere else completely.

3. Promises to Change

Why doesn't this work? According to the research this is not an effective way to de-escalate an argument. Can you picture someone making promises not to smoke any more, or eat fast food as often? Imagine the look in their partner's eyes as maybe they have heard these promises to be different before. I guess it's that they just don't believe them, and perhaps for good reason.

Well, those things are the bad news, things that aren't going to help you in your relationship. The good news? There are a bunch of easy and proven strategies that do work to get out of an argument fast, and you can check out 3 of my favourites.

What does work?

1. Share a Laugh

One easy way to get out of an argument is to simply share a laugh. I know most of my arguments are not about deep, underlying issues, but rather about a passing situation. By making light of the situation and having a little laugh, the argument can usually be over before it has even really begun. “We really nailed our morning routine today, didn't we?” (he says sardonically, but with a warm smile as the family walks out the door). Even a little laugh can alleviate the tension and prevent those bad feelings from leaking into the rest your day. If you can end with “We'll do better tomorrow,” and a hug and a kiss, even better.

2. Positive Mind Reading

“Seems like you are disappointed, right?” By tuning into your partner's feelings and expressing them, you begin to de-escalate the negative feelings and start to feel connected again. It is a simple and effective way to turn an argument into a discussion.

3. Taking Some Responsibility

The number one way to get out of an argument fast is to take some responsibility for how it got there. Arguments are simply not helpful and often leave us feeling miserable, even if we “win”. Rather than let those hurt feelings linger, or get worse, take some responsibility for your part and fix what was broken. There may still be something to discuss, but do it when you are in a more positive frame of mind. Would your best, most loving self have acted that way? If not, you have something you can take responsibility for and then get back to feeling connected.

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