“If you argue with a woman and win,” warned one anonymous author, “you lose.”
It isn’t easy for men. I honestly do feel some degree of sympathy for them. For women who are wondering why their boyfriend or husband’s eyes glaze over whenever they bring up a problem with the relationship; why the volume on the TV suddenly gets louder, that leaky faucet suddenly needs to be fixed, or that speck of lint on their shirt suddenly becomes the most fascinating thing to look at, recent research released by Queendom may shed some light.
We assessed data from more than 37,000 test-takers about how they argue. Basically, we wanted to know what kind of tactics people use during an argument. Positive arguing tactics (hearing the other person out, focusing on one issue at a time, finding common ground) are more likely to lead to a resolution that pleases both parties and brings them closer together. Negative tactics (bringing up the past, insulting/name-calling, refusing to admit fault) are more likely to result in feelings of resentment, unresolved anger, and a higher likelihood that the unsettled issue will rear its ugly head again. So with this in mind, who do you think is more likely to fight dirty?
Well, our study revealed that women are more likely than men to use negative fighting tactics like swearing (37% of women vs. 27% of men), allowing old grudges to resurface (39% of women vs. 22% of men), and “hitting below the belt” (33% of women vs. 30% of men). Men were more likely to want to find a resolution that benefits both parties (60% of men, 54% of women) and to be willing to apologize to their partner (70% of men, 67% of women).
A lot of women at this point might be disagreeing, but let’s look at this objectively. Get on a woman’s good side, and she’ll treat you like fine jewelry. Get on her bad side, and may heaven help you. I’ll be the first to admit that we can have rather sharp tongues, and are not afraid to tell it like it is. So if you’re wondering why your partner hates bringing up issues with you, or walks away when you start an argument, take a serious look at how you argue. Are you being too critical? Are you directing your criticism toward what he did specifically, or who he is as a person? Are you giving your partner a chance to explain his side of the story?
Queendom ‘s data also reveals that while negative fighting tactics tend to decrease with age, younger age groups (24 and under) tend to have a more positive attitude towards fighting, believing that they “come out as better people after a fight,” that fighting is “sometimes necessary,” and that it’s better to have an argument than to “bottle up negative feelings”. In terms of relationship status and length, those in a relationship but not married had a more positive attitude towards fighting than married couples and single people. Positive fighting tactics and positive attitude toward fighting tended to decrease as relationship length increased, but this difference was much more pronounced for people who were already quite dissatisfied with their relationship. Not surprisingly, couples who are happy with their relationship are more likely to use positive tactics when fighting, focusing on finding a mutually-beneficial solution and encouraging their partner to open up. On the other hand, couples who consider fighting a serious problem in their relationship were more likely to fight dirty.
Other interesting tidbits we found in our study:
- 47% admit that things can become aggressive.
- 28% refuse to be the first one to apologize.
- 49% admit that they feel the need to win.
- 50% will validate their partner’s feelings.
After a fight…
- 51% make up right away.
- 36% have had at least one of their relationships end.
- 56% feel that the issue is resolved.
- 53% view the argument as a way to learn and grow.
Here are some tips on how to argue in a productive way (and yes, this is for both men and women):
- Timing is important. Don’t start an argument just before bed or right before you’re heading to a party. It also goes without saying that arguing in front of other people, especially children, is a very bad idea.
- Don’t bring out all your dirty laundry at once. This tactic can result in an overwhelmingly long, exhausting fight. It’s also possible that while all of these issues will be revealed, none of them will get resolved. Stay focused and solve one problem at a time.
- Find common ground. Begin by pointing out things that you can agree on. Even if you have opposing points of view, there will likely be a few items you see eye-to-eye on. This tactic builds a bridge between you and your partner and creates a working atmosphere that focuses on a shared goal.
- Do not attack your partner’s character. Instead, discuss specific behaviors and how you feel about them. While character traits are difficult to change, specific behaviors can be modified. For example, instead of saying, “You are such a lousy parent,” say, “I disagree with the way you reprimand our kids.” Or, instead of saying, “You never spend time with me anymore,” say, “I miss spending time with you.”
- Try to understand how your partner sees a situation. Ask your partner for his or her version of a story and listen with an open mind. We tend to focus on our own interpretation of events, which may not even be accurate. Try to see things from your partner’s perspective and you’ll gain a more thorough view of the issue. Just like you, your partner has the right to see things differently.
- Be ready to compromise. Unless it is a real make-or-break issue (in which case, the help of a therapist may prove useful), you should be able to reach an arrangement that satisfies both of you. You may not get exactly what you want, but the situation will be improved. If you give something up in one argument, it may make your partner more likely to cut you some slack on an issue that’s important to you.
- Admit your own mistakes. Take responsibility for your own actions. It can be hard to face your personal shortcomings but your partner will likely appreciate your honesty. Your partner will become less defensive when he or she sees that you are not blaming everything on him or her.
- Accept that some issues just can’t be solved in one argument. If you encounter a complex issue (such as infidelity), make sure that you both understand that the topic will have to be addressed again and again. If there doesn’t seem to be any progress being made or if you feel like you’re going in circles, consult a professional who can help guide you through your issue.
How do you fight? Do you have any tips on resolving an argument in a healthy way? Share your comments below!
Join me for next week’s discussion on destructive emotional patterns!