How to Turn an Argument Into a Productive Discussion

Arguments can be stressful. We might yell, feel frustrated or unheard, get angry or even see the breakdown of a relationship. However, not all disagreements have to end negatively. In fact, there are ways for us to take heated conversations and turn them into productive discussions. Here are some ways to do so.

Keep the Tone Light and Friendly

Tone can be everything in a discussion or argument. Once someone’s behavior turns dismissive or hostile, the other person can become defensive. Instead, use open body language, maintain a calm disposition and even insert humor, whenever appropriate. These actions will set the mood for your discussion, helping it to become productive rather than destructive.

Keep Emotions at Bay

In order to keep the mood light and friendly, you’ll have to check your emotions at the door. Of course, this can sometimes be easier said than done. However, if you enter a discussion already angry or upset, tensions will start to run high quickly. Instead, if you’re feeling emotional, try to take a break from the conversation. Go for a walk, take some deep breaths or leave the discussion for another day when you’re able to think more clearly and logically. These actions will help your teen do the same.

Use “I” Statements

In any discussion, you can really only speak for yourself. However, with a simple twist of language we can quickly shift to a position of blame or accusation. To avoid this, use “I” statements to express how you feel. For example, “I feel upset when you break curfew.” This works instead of saying something like “You always disrespect me. You always break curfew.” The second statement will put your teen in a defensive position whereas, with an “I” statement, they can’t necessarily argue about how you feel. Encourage your teen to state how they feel as well and try to respect their statements by acknowledging them. In turn, they’ll learn how to reciprocate.

Be Specific

One way that a discussion can quickly turn into an argument is if those involved start making broad, sweeping generalizations. “Always” and “never” can be demoralizing words. Instead, try to focus on specific instances, examples and behaviors in your discussion. That way, together, you can work toward specific goals moving forward.

Review the Discussion

Any situation can be productive when we feel as though we can take something away or point to a development. Therefore, when your discussion with your teen is complete, take a moment to review anything either of you might have gained. Did you learn a new perspective? Developed an understanding for how the other person might feel? Reach an agreement? All of these are great accomplishments, and they should be noticed and celebrated!

Most importantly, remember why it’s important to aim for productive discussions: the health of your relationship. Sometimes arguing might feel like the easier or more cathartic choice. But in the long run, having a discussion can strengthen the relationship you have with your teen.

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