How to Defuse an Argument

There is one thing that the majority of us have difficulty with, however mild-mannered we are! At some point, most of us have been involved in a flaming row over something or other which, in retrospect, was about something rather unimportant. So, what can we do to defuse an argument, and dial down the anger or frustration in a tense situation? Firstly, we can try to keep discussions and debates rational and civil - arguments which spill into angry exchanges rarely solve much or persuade anyone of anything. However, if arguments occur, here's how to settle things down quick.

Steps

  1. Try to calm down. Take a deep breath. Count to 10, or 100, if it helps.
  2. Agree or at least Agree To Disagree. The quickest way to end any argument is to simply agree with the other person. If you agree with any part of their point, concede that point and try to let the argument dissipate. Even if you don't really agree, just saying so will end most arguments. This is not optimal for a lot of reasons, however, since it's dishonest. If you will see this person again, you will have to perpetuate that lie, and it won't be pleasant. In this case, just agreeing to disagree, and then wandering away is a great option - in this scenario, you just say, "Well, Tim, I see what you're saying, but it's doubtful I'll ever get there with you. Let's just agree to disagree and move on, huh?" and let it drop. If Tim keeps beating that horse, walk away - tell a benign lie like, "I need to get a drink," or if Tim seems to want to follow you, try the very basic, "I need to go to the restroom."
  3. Be considerate of the other person. Listen to what the other person is saying, genuinely try to understand that point of view, and do not interrupt while s/he is speaking.
  4. Think before you speak, and consider whether it is something you might regret having said tomorrow! Don't say something stupid or mean just because you are angry and upset.
  5. Respect the other person's right to his or her point of view. Let the other person know that you consider his or her opinion valid, and that you will respect that whether or not you agree.
  6. Remain civil. Do not scream at the other person, or speak abusively. Be kind even while you differ, and be willing to be reconciled (whether or not you reach an agreement in your argument).
  7. Don't sacrifice your relationship for the sake of "being right." Remember, the most important thing is not always the specific outcome of the argument, but rather the impact the argument has on your relationship with the other person. It may sometimes be better to forgo the outcome you want, let the other person have the last word, and keep the quality of friendship in your relationship.
  8. Apologize if you have done anything wrong (even if it was only a bad attitude). The other person will be more motivated to apologize if you do.
  9. Walk away. This goes right back to Step 1. If you have done all this and have failed to defuse the argument, walk away for the time being and allow the other person (and yourself) to cool off. The next day, when you both have had time to think about the situation, reason may prevail and you may make up.
  10. Drop it. If all this doesn't work, however, recognize that some people will not be reasonable or want to make up with you, no matter what you do. In such a case, just drop the matter and go on with your life. It's not that important in the scheme of things. However, if your social support system will suffer without this person, you need to start making new friends as soon as possible.

Tips

  • Try to understand the other person's viewpoint, and think before you speak.
  • Speaking thoughtlessly can really hurt a person, even if that was not your intention. Speaking reasonably and sensibly, on the other hand, can help the other person to calm down too.
  • Using the following phrase will stop any person who is arguing with you in their tracks, say it exactly as it is written: "I understand your opinion, and if I were in your place, I would probably feel the same way you do."

Warnings

  • Some people may just want to pick fights, or engage in an argument. Recognize when this is the case, and walk away.
  • Don't be judgemental when engaging in a discussion with someone. Be open-minded and willing to change if necessary.
  • Don't belittle the other person, or ridicule his or her opinion. Mockery isn't constructive, most people will simply resort to using the same kind of verbal weapons against you!
  • Don't ever say "Oh, but you are perfect." This is not respectful or constructive. Most people argue from a standpoint of givens. In other words, it's a given that nobody's perfect. Still, the opinion stands.

Things You'll Need

  • A cool temper, or something to cool it with (i.e. deep breaths, counting, etc)
  • A rational brain
  • Tact
  • Compassion (or some other motive)