7 Steps to Diffusing Irrational Arguments

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7 Steps to Diffusing Irrational Arguments

by Olessia Kantor
Family Arguments Confrontation

With the terrorist attacks occurring throughout the world, the political tension, and the racial tension, it’s hard to avoid some serious topics arising in social situations. Just the other day, I was grabbing a drink with a group of friends when the United States presidential election came up. Understandably a touchy subject, I watched as a full blown screaming match erupted between colleagues over the issue of gun control. I hate to pin the blame on one person, but one party was simply unwilling to hear the stance of the other, to try to understand anyone’s viewpoint but his own. Regardless of the subject matter, we’ve all found ourselves in a situation where we are arguing with a brick wall, so to speak. Luckily, I’ve devised a few simple strategies to help diffuse just that kind of situation.

  • Maintain your composure. Energies are contagious. The situation will only be escalated by escalating emotions. Make sure to stay conversational, not confrontational.
  • Evaluate your place in the situation. Make sure that you’re confident in what you’re speaking on. This is the point to call yourself on any irrational behavior of your own, as uncomfortable as that might be. If you’re unsure of what you’re talking about or if your point still stands, it is better to back down than to cause a larger confrontation about an issue you may be misguided about.
  • Set your limits and adhere to them. You know how far you are willing to let an argument go. Take a second to recognize that and put the situation into perspective. Similarly, verbalize your limitations with the other person, about what words and actions you find acceptable and which you do not. In the same token, respect their wishes also.
  • Make sure what you’re arguing and the words you are saying are clear. Saying something in certain terms may be perfectly clear to you, but confusing to others. Put things in the simplest terms you can boil them down to. That way, you’re able to rule out the possibility that this is a misunderstanding and adjust your actions accordingly if they are.
  • Engage the person by name. By saying someone’s name (or whatever you might call them personally) repeatedly, you are calling attention to the fact that you know this person outside of the heated conversation you’re getting into now.
  • If you feel like things are getting ugly, get out. Sometimes the art of conversation requires the art of resignation. That is, you need to be able to bow out of a heated discussion even if you’re sure that you’re right for the sake of not letting a situation get completely unbearable and escalate beyond control. For all you know, this person might enjoy getting your riled up and by not giving in, you’re allowing for that to continue. 
  • Discontinue the argument with grace. By declaring that you’d like to discontinue the argument until a less tense time, or simply stating that you don’t want to talk about it anymore, you are giving the out for the situation. By not taking you up on that chance, the other party is very obviously looking to escalate the situation, which makes them look foolish and you look like the more levelheaded person regardless of what the argument was about initially.

There’s never a good time for conflict to arise, but with the right strategy, it can be easily resolved. Remember, conversation is meant to challenge on some level, but the line between spirited debate and heated argument should always be clear.