How often do you end an argument with a positive outcome? If you’re like most people, not very often I’d imagine. This is especially true when it comes to arguments with a romantic partner or a family member.
Egos, selfishness, and emotions poison sound reasoning. Family or romantic connections encourage unjustified entitlement to say whatever comes to mind without fear of reprisals.
If you want to increase the fairness and productivity of your arguments, both parties need to agree to some ground rules. Here are 10 rules for fair and productive arguments.
- Be courteous and respectful. If you are courteous and respectful, it’s more likely the other person will extend the same to you! And these are the best conditions for having a productive argument.
- Agree to a mature and intelligent exchange. Approach the argument in a scientific, dignified, and honorable manner. Spoiled, childish, and immature behavior makes the exchange a complete waste of time.
- Avoid the use of profanity. Sometimes profanity helps to drive home a point, but usually, it’s not necessary and tasteless.
- Stay focused on the topic. Do not bring up other topics of argument. Reserve those for a separate time. Bringing up another issue will get you off course, divide your mental and physical resources, and reduce your ability to achieve the best possible outcome.
- Do not bring up unrelated history. Bringing up unrelated history is often a maneuver to point blame or divert attention away from the issue or an individual.
- Do not bring up hurtful issues. This is a cheap and cowardly way to hurt the other person because the offender is unwilling to face the truth.
- Do not criticize, condemn, or complain. This is one of Dale Carnegie’s “Golden Rules.” The objective of an argument is to find a solution, consensus, or compromise. Criticism, condemnation, and complaining poison the exchange and leads to a negative outcome.
- Do not make the other person solely wrong. If your goal is to “make” the other person wrong, then you’re never going to win. Your objective should be to determine positive answers, solutions, and goals that both parties feel good about in the end.
- Limit your argument to five rounds per topic. Anything more is a waste of time. Here’s how each round should go. (1) Person A presents their issue. (2) Person B responds. (3) Person A clears up any misunderstandings, adds more detail if necessary, and restates their points. (4) Person B either accepts Person A’s argument completely, partly, conditionally, or not at all. (5) Person A acknowledges the result. (Final Bell.) To go any further would be futile. After five rounds, both parties have heard each other’s point of view several times. There’s no need to go on. Letting the issue rest for a few hours or days often gives both individuals the opportunity to cool off and more clearly consider each other’s points. If you’re having trouble bringing an argument to an end, agree to a date and time to discuss it again in a few days.
- Take a break if tempers begin to get out of control. Once one or both parties lose their temper, productivity ends and irrational communication begins. This can lead to lasting resentment if extremely hurtful things are said. If tempers begin to rise, take a break immediately. Depending on how much your tempers have risen, take a break for several minutes, hours, or days.
Use this list as a guide to establish your own standing rules of argument in your relationship. Create the list, agree upon it, and post it in a place where you’ll both see it often. It will probably take some time to get used to it, but once you do, your arguments should be much more productive and much less destructive.
Try it! You have nothing to lose except worthless and hurtful arguments where neither person wins.