In any relationship, you’re bound to argue at some point. It’s only natural! In fact, many relationship experts maintain that conflict is essential for both people and relationships to grow. That said, there is such a thing as a “bad time” to argue, and when that happens, it probably won’t end well.
In the heat of the moment, it can be tough to stop an argument. If growth and resolution are the goals, then learning how to end an argument is an essential relationship skill. Here are 5 ways to stop an argument:
It’s normal to want to defend yourself during an argument, but it’s important to disengage before you say something you’ll regret. Disengagement means stepping back and taking time to think rather than react. Here’s how you can do it:
- Take deep breaths (try counting up to four on the inhale and down from four on the exhale)
- Ask your partner, “can we take a quick break?” (Using the word “we” to reinforce that you are in this together)
- Move your body (shake, dance, do a yoga pose)
- Return to one another when you are calmer
Keep in mind that disengaging is not shutting down or stonewalling your partner. You are acknowledging that it would be better to discuss things when you are both calm.
2. Think before you speak
In the heat of an argument, one of you is more likely to say something unintentionally (or intentionally) hurtful that can have a lasting effect on the other, which makes it harder to end the argument. Here are a few tips for thinking before you speak:
- Choosing your words carefully slows your thought process down so that you can think more clearly
- This allows you to consider how what you say will affect your partner
- Considering your words is an act of empathy and respect
Slowing down and thinking before you speak is one way to bring more mindfulness into your relationship.
3. Stay calm
It may be easier said than done, but calming your body down can help stop an argument in its tracks. Here’s how to do it:
- Don’t yell or raise your voice – studies show whispering is incredibly effective in stopping an argument
- Watch your posture – Unclench your jaw, unball your fists, and uncross your arms
- Breathe – taking full, deep breaths calms the nervous system and reduces the sense of urgency in the situation
- Crack a joke – it can be so unexpected that it snaps you both completely out of the conflict
The more you practice staying calm, the more effective you’ll become at stopping an argument.
4. Listen With Empathy
Instead of hearing your partner during an argument, you’re more likely to start formulating your rebuttal. This means you’re not actually hearing what they have to say! You can break this habit by working on actively listening to your partner. First, practice tips 1-3. Then try this:
- Notice the urge to start forming your retort while your partner is still talking
- Recommit to listening
- Repeat back what you heard your partner say without editorializing or inserting your own feelings or reactions
- Once your partner indicates that you heard them correctly, respond to what they said
Listening is an important component of open and honest communication.
5. Suggest compromise
When you give up the need to win and focus on supporting the relationship, everyone wins!
- Let go of the need to be right – it opens you both up to being heard, respected, and understood
- Find some common ground – something you can both agree on, even if it isn’t what the argument is about
- Make a trade – see if you can find a way to get something you want and make a concession so your partner gets something they want
Being able to stop an argument does not always mean things are completely resolved. Sometimes a fight begins at an inopportune time like late at night or when there are kids around. Taking the time to deescalate the fight and calm yourselves down shows a commitment to the relationship and to each other.