How to Stay Calm During an Argument
A practical guide to maintaining your cool and practicing civil discourse.
A subject comes up in conversation that you hold a strong opinion about, someone’s comment gets under your skin, tensions rise, your emotions get the best of you, and you end up in an argument. Arguments are part of life. They’re normal, natural, and inevitable. But losing your head in an argument is optional.
So how do you stay calm during an argument? It takes practice. Keeping a level head in heated discussions is a matter of developing a skill set to help you regulate your thoughts and emotions so you can stay calm when it matters most.
What are the Causes of an Argument?
Arguments aren’t just about two conflicting points of view, they’re often a negative portrayal of emotions stemming from repressed anger. To maintain a calm attitude during an argument, you need to recognize the reasons behind the conflict. Here are some common causes of arguments:
- Absence of mutual understanding
- Stubbornness and a need to be right
- Poor communication and aggressive body language
- An unwillingness to pause and listen to the other side
- Suppressed emotions that add up over time
How to Stay Calm in Conflict?
We’ve all heard the standard advice for de-escalating your emotions during an argument. Take deep breaths, get some space, visualize a happy place, etc. While this isn’t bad advice, these tips won’t keep you from getting into an argument in the first place.In a perfect world, you would react thoughtfully and rationally to every situation. But life isn’t always easy. You need to make a conscious effort to create an environment for civil discourse in every argument.While building three purpose-driven startups, I’ve learned how to stay calm and respectful during a confrontation. When you’re leading multiple teams, civil communication is imperative. Here are five tips that can help:
Listen before you speak — “I need a minute.”
When you take a moment to think and listen to the other person, you buy time. You get the mental space to process your emotions and think of an appropriate response.
The next time you feel a disagreement is about to escalate into an argument, try to remain calm. Understand where the other person is coming from. And remember: communication is key. If your emotions are getting the best of you, don’t hesitate to say, “I’m feeling overwhelmed right now, and I need a minute to think this through.” Resume your discussion when you’ve calmed down, and you’ll be able to stay civil even in conflict.
Don’t raise your voice — “Raising my voice won’t get me heard.”
Successful communication has three main elements:
- Body language, and
If you speak in a way that’s offputting, even carefully chosen words will give the wrong impression. A good way to stay calm during an argument is to remember that raising your voice won’t help you be heard better. You may tend to raise your voice for issues you feel strongly about or when you feel threatened. But to communicate effectively, you need to speak in an even tone without making aggravated gestures. Your civil behavior can diffuse a lot of resistance from the other side as well.
Don’t deviate from the matter at hand — “Let’s talk this out.”
If you are in the middle of an argument, don’t bring up old unresolved issues. Arguing over issues you haven’t yet processed can make you angrier. To keep calm, stick to the matter at hand. If the other person deviates, say “Let’s talk this matter through, and then we can talk about the other things.”
Know when to stop — “I understand.”
The key to staying calm in an argument is self-awareness and having a flexible mindset. It’s tempting to continue fighting if you shift into survival mode. But if a discussion doesn’t have a solution-oriented approach, you’ll be stuck in a loop of arguments and counterarguments. Try to understand why the other person is so adamant about not letting go. Tell them you understand, and either agree or disagree politely without escalating the disagreement.
It’s okay to be at fault — “I’m sorry.”
If you realize that you’re at fault in an argument, apologize and accept the blame. Most people avoid taking responsibility for their actions or admitting mistakes, but if you want to be part of the solution, you need to put your ego aside. Internalize that you’re only human and you will make mistakes. Sometimes, all it takes is a genuine apology to end an argument.
What doesn’t work during an Argument?
Now that you’re aware of the good practices on how to stay calm during an argument, here are some things you should absolutely avoid during a conflict:
Bringing up evidence — “You’re guilty.”
Once you start pointing fingers and drawing conclusions, the argument is bound to escalate. Avoid bringing up evidence to prove the other side wrong. Blame games can further aggravate the other side which will intensify the argument.
Refusing to let the topic drop — “I’m not done yet.”
It might be tempting to continue a circular argument just so you can feel victorious in the end, but a resolution doesn’t mean one party has to be proved right. If you reach a compromise, drop the topic so both parties can move ahead. By stubbornly insisting that everyone cater to your ego, you prevent a productive solution from occurring.
Following the other person from room to room — “You have to hear me out.”
Following the other person around might be your way of making sure you’re heard. But this can come across as threatening, obnoxious, and not conducive to a peaceful resolution of the argument.
Speaking with a tone of urgency — “We need to clear this up now.”
Some arguments can be resolved in a few minutes, while others might take hours, if not days. Speaking with urgency can pressure the other person into submitting to something they wouldn’t have otherwise agreed to, thus fostering resentment. Let the other person take their time, and keep calm.
How to Handle an Argument at Work?
Conflict at work can be toxic, but staying patient and level-headed is key to resolving it effectively. Here are 10 tips on how to resolve conflicts with teammates:
- Use ‘we’ to reflect the team spirit and keep your organization’s best interest over individuality.
- Resolve conflicts with coworkers internally without the involvement of superiors.
- Stay calm and listen to all sides instead of responding aggressively.
- When others disagree with you, maintain a civil conversation by not losing your temper.
- Avoid idle, foul, or abusive language.
- Focus on the facts without any bias.
- Keep your body language and gestures neutral.
- Take preventive measures and nip differences in the bud before they turn into open arguments.
- Offer equal space to all so they can voice their concerns.
- Respect in the workplace is a priority. Make sure all the employees are civil and respectful, regardless of their conflicts.
Staying Calm During Arguments — A Practice of Living
It takes practice to stay calm during any conflict. By understanding your mistakes, actively listening, having a civil approach, and putting relationships first, you can keep calm during fights.
I hope this post has inspired you to adopt a solution-oriented approach to arguments and some skills to help keep discussions civil and productive. When in doubt, always default to compassion and empathy.