Stop a Fight from Ruining Your Night: 5 Tips for Ending an Argument
No relationship is free of conflict. In fact, many relationship experts maintain that conflict is essential for both people and relationships to grow. But while we know arguments happen and are even important for relationships, there is such a thing as a bad time to fight.
Maybe you’re tired or have been drinking, perhaps your partner had a particularly challenging day... When stress and emotions are high, conflict is more apt to escalate to an unproductive level. And if other people—especially children—are present, it’s best to save the fight for another time.
In the heat of the moment it can be very difficult to stop an argument. If growth and resolution are the goal, learning how to end an argument is an essential relationship skill. It is often best to sleep on it and come back to the issue when you and your partner are rested and calmer. Know that old adage, “never go to bed angry”? That’s where these tips for how to stop an argument and prevent it from ruining your night come in!
If you find yourself on the verge of an argument (or already in one) you may feel the very natural instinct is to defend yourself. You want to fight because you are threatened. However in this state you cannot act rationally and are more likely to say things you will regret.
Disengagement means stepping back and taking time to think rather than react. This can be hard because arguments plunge you into flight or fight mode. Interrupting that instinct is the first step towards stopping an argument from blowing up.
- 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.
All of these actions can diffuse the arguments and give your nervous systems a chance to settle down. This 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
If you are able to disengage, it will be much easier to think about what you want to say before you say it. In the heat of an argument you or your partner is more apt to say something unintentionally (or intentionally) hurtful that can have a lasting effect on the other and make it harder to end the argument.
- 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. Relish is another one. With expert coaches who offer you personalized attention, you’ll be blissfully communicating with respect and empathy in no time. Click here for your free one week trial!
3. Stay calm
Our bodies are primed to respond to threatening situations, it's how our species has survived for thousands of years. When you are in a fight, hormonal and psychological changes take place in your body. Calming your body down can help stop an argument in its tracks.
- Don’t raise your voice - Yelling is a sign of disrespect so it’s best to avoid it. Lowering your voice is even better. Studies show whispering is incredibly effective in stopping an argument.
- Watch your posture - Unclench your jaw, unball your fists, and uncross your arms. All of these postures are go-tos when we’re stressed, but they increase tension in the body.
- Breathe - but really breathe. Taking full deep breaths calms the nervous system and reduces the sense of urgency in the situation.
- Crack a joke - telling a joke during a fight can be so unexpected that it snaps you both completely out of the conflict.
4. Listen With Empathy
Often being in an argument means you stop listening to your partner. Instead of hearing them, you start formulating your rebuttal (within 10 seconds!). 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. To learn more techniques to improve communication and see the benefits - download Relish and get started on your relationship and self-love journey. Get full access to our expert relationship coaches, therapist approved quizzes, and more free for one week.
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 - This opens you both up to being heard, respected, and understood.
- Find some common ground - Find something you can both agree on, even if it isn’t what the argument is about. This helps create a compromise mindset.
- 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.
Ending 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.
It is normal to have conflicts in your relationship, but getting stuck in an argument cycle is not healthy. Relish helps couples identify underlying relationship issues and build skills and practices to have healthy conflicts and a happier relationships. Get full access free for one week - download now!