How do you discuss problems without arguing

It is difficult to change personality, but it is difficult to change the style of conflict


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But how do you argue in such a way that neither your relationships with others nor your own health suffer? How loud can you get? And can you learn to argue well, even if you had bad experiences as a child?

The offended and the yielding have good prospects: According to Herzberg, although it is difficult to change personality, in this case fearfulness, it is difficult to change the style of conflict. "It often helps to make the parties to the dispute aware of their typical patterns," he says. "When we show couples a video recording of their argument about vacation planning, many are surprised because they were upset during the argument and didn't even notice a lot." The exercise could make people aware of typical processes. However, the psychologist doubts that filming arguing is also a good exercise at home. "I imagine that you could also abuse this remedy to make your partner feel insecure." Couples therapy could help. For example, compliant people learn how to get their partner to pay more attention to their needs.

The couples therapist and retired psychology professor Dirk Revenstorf asks couples in his sessions to re-enact disputes that really happened. "You wanted to call the carpenter to fix the patio door," the woman then says, for example. The man resolves to do that, but she beats him and calls herself. "I always have to take care of everything," she complains. "At this point I interrupt the dialogue and ask the woman how she is doing," says Revenstorf. "After a while, for example, it turns out that she is unconsciously afraid of losing control." The man, on the other hand, may be disappointed that she is taking everything out of his hands. "I then stand behind him and hold him lightly on the shoulders so that he can feel it physically," explains Revenstorf. The conversation might show that he was already suppressed by his father and therefore feels the need to hit the table. "In this way, both learn to understand themselves and their partners better and to deal with conflict situations in a more relaxed manner," says Revenstorf.

There is also good news for everyone who likes to be loud in an argument: A basic rule of psychology is that communication must be consistent. Anyone who is annoyed should show that too, so getting loud is allowed. But how loud? It depends on the situation. "At work you have to be careful about anger, but you should show it," says Maud Winkler, couples therapist and coach for executives. “If you are angry because your colleague presented the common idea as his own at the conference, you cannot remain completely calm. Otherwise he won't understand how bad the incident is for you. "

On the other hand, you can risk being loud in a relationship - what is more harmful here is a disrespectful attitude than the volume. Even the once discredited you messages are now allowed again. Couples therapists have long preached that one should always formulate I-messages ("I feel anger rising inside of me because the dishes are still dirty" instead of "Now you still haven't washed up"). Psychologists feared that you messages might sound like judgments from above. I-messages, on the other hand, should make it easier for the interlocutor to accept the criticism.

However, the new school of communication psychology has recognized that you messages are more authentic and easier to remember. Especially when people have avoided conflicts over a long period of time, "a temporary phase of attacks, accusations and accusations can be downright healing," writes communication psychologist Friedemann Schulz von Thun. "I-messages are often too soft and seem trained," says Maud Winkler. In case of doubt: clarity before beauty - it is better to say clearly what is going on than to formulate gentle sentences in which the actual message is lost.

In any case, the decisive factor is not how you argue in the affect, but how well you analyze and resolve afterwards, what annoyed whom why and what it was really about. Violent arguments are therefore not bad, Maud Winkler agrees. "Roaring and howling can also be a discharge," she says. Many couples would find it easier to resolve conflicts afterwards.

The psychologists emphasize that it is not so much the choice of words that matters, but the attitude. "The important thing is how you deal with your own conflicts," says Maud Winkler. "If you look for the cause of your imbalance instead of blaming your partner or colleague for it, conflicts can be resolved better." In her experience, being reasonably at peace with yourself helps enormously. Instead of being quickly offended, one can then try to understand why one reacts and how and which feelings and reactions one provokes in the other.

Another suggestion may be easier to implement: prevention. Maud Winkler recommends partners, colleagues and neighbors to regularly talk about conflicts before they turn into arguments. “Many are afraid to address problems because they think that this will disrupt the collegial relationship at work, for example. It is already disturbed, the mood is already there. ”That is why Winkler advises that it is better to muster up the courage for a confrontation early enough.

If preventive measures like this don't prevent fierce arguments, there is some consolation: Perhaps regular practice will help you get really good at arguing. Theoretical knowledge alone is not enough, as the experience of the psychologist Philipp Yorck Herzberg shows. »My wife always says:› You spend the whole day dealing with conflict resolution - why don't I notice anything about it? ‹«