What does it mean to win or lose? In most sports, there is a clear winner and a clear loser. In respect our partner(s), we also tend to think of winning or losing an argument. Many people try to win the argument themselves, because they certainly do not want to be the loser. We’ve all seen how sports teams or individuals react after a win or a loss in a game, and we do not want to be on the losing side. So, how do you win an argument with a partner?
When couples are experiencing a lot of distress and frequent arguments, they are often feeling unheard by their partner. They may feel misunderstood or ignored. They may feel that their partner does not respect their wishes. If the couple is disagreeing, they both may feel that the other person is not understanding their perspective. As this occurs, they may get louder, begin repeating themselves, and enter into an argument in which no one is feeling better and nothing gets resolved. Does this pattern sound familiar to you?
It may feel good, in the moment, to end these arguments angrily and walk away. It may also feel important to bring up old examples of your partner’s behavior or point out their shortcomings. However, most often, nothing ends up being resolved when using these techniques. Even if your partner gives in to you, you are likely to leave this argument still feeling upset, and your partner is definitely going to leave this argument upset and hurt.
No one wins in these situations. You may feel that you won, because your partner finally agreed with you, or chose to stop arguing with you. However, the feeling of distress after an argument, no matter who was “right,” is not helpful for you or your relationship. These kind of arguments only lead to further distancing you and your partner and increased negative feelings toward one another. Therefore, it may be important to change your perspective about winning.
By viewing you and your partner(s) as being on the same team, you may be able to reduce the level of argumentation that occurs in these situations. When you realize that criticizing your partner leads not just to them losing this argument, but also to your relationship taking a loss, you may think twice about that criticism. When you can sit down with a partner and logically discuss the problem you are having, how it makes you feel, and how you would like your partner to help you fix it, your relationship will be better for it.
The difficult, but most important, part of this form of communication is about also being able to listen and understand your partner(s) when they come to you with a problem. When someone comes to you discussing an issue they have with you, it’s natural to want to defend yourself or your choices. You want to prove them wrong and win! However, the important thing to do in this scenario is to simply listen and validate your partner’s perspective. Even if you can only agree with 7% of what your partner is telling you, VALIDATE that 7%. Tell them why you understand their perspective. This will be much more productive than the cyclical arguments that you may have been engaging in previously.
When you can listen and understand where your partner is coming from, and they can do the same thing for you, you both win. Your relationship wins as you cultivate better understanding, respect, and appreciation for the other person’s thoughts and feelings. So, how do you win an argument? By being on the same team. Listen to and validate you partner(s).