7 Surprising Ways to Win an Argument

There was a time in my marriage when arguments felt a lot like attempting to escape the fun house at a carnival after someone has set it on fire. Keep in mind that I’ve never actually been inside a fun house while it’s on fire, but I can imagine: scary, confusing, dark, hot, overwhelming, loud, and panic-inducing.

Fighting with my husband used to be just like that. I was scared to voice what was really on my mind, and the words that often tumbled out of my mouth did the opposite of what I intended. Rather than get my point across, I often felt lost in a maze of anger. We talked in circles. I felt out of control, as if I were a puppet and my emotions were the puppeteer. Neither one of us felt heard. Or loved. Or satisfied. No one won. Usually, after the fight ended, we both felt like losers with anger-induced hangovers.

Can you relate?

Over the years, I’ve learned many techniques that have allowed me to speak my truth without feeling scared and meek, as well as strategies that have helped me to better connect with my husband so he understands my point of view. For instance, I have learned to say less, following a three sentence rule. If I can’t say it in three sentences, it usually means I’m just too angry and better go for a run before I open my mouth. What follows are seven more strategies—many of them completely counterintuitive— that cutting edge research has found can help you win an argument and avoid an anger hangover.

  • How to Win an Argument — Even When All You Want to do is Hide 1 of 8

    Arguments are tough. Most of us would rather avoid them. Sometimes, however, they are a necessary means to a happier end. Here are seven tactics that will take the fear out of arguments and help you to more effectively make your point.

  • Go to Bed Angry 2 of 8

    Ignore the age-old advice to kiss and make up before bed. Following it is like attempting to keep high tide from destroying a sand castle: a pointless effort. Research from UC Berkeley has found that fatigue and lack of sleep makes fights worse. Like, can you say grrrrrumpy? I sure can. So go to sleep even if your fight isn't resolved.  Table the matter, sleep in separate bedrooms if needed,  and promise to talk about it in the morning, when you are both rested. 

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  • Confront Your Spouse in the Morning 3 of 8

    Not only will you both be in a better mood come morning, you'll also be less likely to exaggerate, manipulate, or lie. Our ability to use self-control to avoid lying is reduced over the course of the day, so we're a lot more likely to be dishonest at night than we are in the morning, find researchers from Harvard. The researchers have dubbed this the "Morning Morality Effect."

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  • Wash Your Hands Before Opening Your Mouth 4 of 8

    The tactic could very well give you the courage you need to speak your truth as well as help you symbolically wash away your negativity. In experiments done at the University of Cologne in Germany, study participants felt more optimistic about their ability to complete a tough task if they first washed their hands.

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  • Put Your Feet Up 5 of 8

    A University of Buffalo researcher has found that expansive postures — such as sitting with your feet propped on a desk top — make you feel powerful. Study participants who sat with their feet propped up for three minutes were more likely to deal with a problem afterward than participants who didn't. So if you are feeling sheepish about confronting your spouse, sitting with your feet up for a while might help you cultivate some courage. Crossing your arms over your chest produces the opposite effect, making you feel weak.

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  • Start With Criticism 6 of 8

    For many years, experts have suggested we all use a compliment sandwich: praise your spouse, slip in some criticism, and then praise again. But when researchers from the University of California at Riverside actually tested out this advice, they arrived at opposite findings. Starting off a confrontation with praise only made listeners feel even more anxious. They knew the bad news was coming, and the praise only made the entire confrontation seem longer and more painful. The critical message in the middle of the sandwich was also often lost. A better strategy: the three sentence rule I mentioned earlier. Just calmly say what you want your spouse to do differently, and do it using a warm tone of voice and as few sentences as possible. When you hold yourself to a three sentence rule, you are forced to eliminate all the unneeded filler and fluff and get straight to the point. Trust me. It works.

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  • Avoid Eye Contact 7 of 8

    If you fight face-to-face, you very well might cause your spouse to resist agreeing with you just for the principle of the matter. German researchers recently found that eye contact made people more resistant to persuasion. "There is a lot of cultural lore about the power of eye contact as an influence tool. But our findings show that direct eye contact makes skeptical listeners less likely to change their minds, not more," wrote lead researcher Frances Chen, who conducted the studies at the University of Freiburg, Germany, and is now an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia. Rather than stare down your spouse as you talk, consider chatting while you walk or while in the car. 

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  • Don’t Read Your Emotions into Your Spouse 8 of 8

    We often interpret other people's emotions based on our own. If we're happy, we think others are happy. If we're scared, we assume those around us are scared, too. This can be especially problematic during an argument when negative emotions are seeping into every single one of our cells. We feel inferior and suddenly we're accusing our spouses of thinking they are superior. Been there? I sure have. A good rule of thumb: don't assume anything. Rather than project thoughts and emotions into your spouse's head, ask questions like, "I sense you are angry. Are you?"

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Article Posted 3 years Ago

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