06 Oct Why we argue with our loved ones (and what to do instead.)
A few years ago, I was in a relationship where we argued a lot about finances. We each had been raised with a different perspective on the role of money, and we wasted much time and emotion trying to convince the other person they were wrong. Although I tried to understand her viewpoint, I did so with a “how did you get such a weird idea about money?” question in my mind. It is no wonder that our attempts at discussing this difference would often end in an argument.
Disagreements with loved ones are inevitable. But is there a way to disagree without escalating to an angry argument?
Yes there is. The answer is in the crucial difference between a CIRCUMSTANCE and a JUDGEMENT.
Let’s look into each one.
A circumstance is a neutral fact that most of us can agree on. A judgement is a personal opinion.
For example, if I say, Facebook has a single blue “f” as their logo, we all would agree with that statement. It is a circumstance, a neutral fact.
However, if I say “Facebook has an UGLY blue “f” as their logo, that becomes a personal opinion. Some people may agree and others may not.
When we are in a disagreement, our minds have a tendency to present opinions as facts. With the above example, if I believe that my opinion of facebook logo being ugly is a FACT, then I get very attached to it, and feel upset when others disagree. This leads to self-righteous anger and defensiveness. And the more I try to convince the other person of my opinion, the more resistant they become. Before we know it, a hurtful argument ensues.
A similar pattern happens in our relationships too. If I think the floors should be mopped weekly, and my wife thinks it’s fine to mop them once in a few weeks, they are both just opinions. If she and I can remember that, we will use gentler language as we negotiate a schedule that works for both of us. If on the other hand, we both go in convinced we are “right”, it will inevitably lead to strong words, resentment and dis-connection.
Research has shown that approximately 69% of disagreements, even in happy relationships, are permanent. They arise from differences in temperament, childhood and personal habits – and are unlikely to go away. The difference between happy and unhappy couples isn’t that the former never disagree – it’s that happy couples can separate a circumstance/fact from personal opinion/judgement, and so they don’t become attached to their version as being “right”. This allows them to use gentle, loving language when negotiating disagreements with their loved one.
What do you and your partner often disagree on? Share in the comments below.
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