Your blood pressure is elevated. Your heart is beating fast. Your mind is running a hundred miles an hour. Anger is rising. You are in the middle of an argument and its going south fast. Knowing what to do at that moment is so important. Do you know how to have good arguments that lead to peace and resolution? Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers.” How good are you at making peace in your difficult relationships? If you are like most people, you are not so good at this.
Here are some practical skills you can learn that will help you have good arguments. Ken Sande the author of The Peacemaker gives me some help along the way.
1. Stay on Topic
One of the reasons good arguments turn bad is that we fail to stay on topic. It is very common for arguments to expand beyond the issue at hand and move to other areas of contention. This is called “kitchen sinking.” When we get mad we tend to throw in past hurts and issues that have nothing to do with the conversation at hand. If there are other issues, plan another time to talk about those.
2. Decide to Honor God in Your Words
“A forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.” James 3:5-6
Before you go into an argument or a confrontation, pre-decide how you are going to use words. In the heat of an argument emotions take over andwords will come out of your mouth that you never intended to say. Make a plan about what you will not say. Create a list. Write them down on paper if you need to. Commit to speaking only words that build up while being honest and up front about your concerns.
3. Dial it Back
Here is an easy one. Intentionally lower your voice. If you are willing to keep your voice softer, your presence will be more disarming and will create a feeling that you care. I have had many occasions where I have had to say something very difficult to another person and I find with a softer tone it is more readily received. Lowering volume communicates you are serious, but you also care.
4. Schedule an Argument
That seems like the last thing you want to do. Who wants to put an argument on the calendar? Here is why it is helpful. It gives you time to prepare your thoughts and heart for the conflict. Sometimes in the midst of a sudden argument you need to say, “Can we have this conversation tomorrow. I would really like to think about this before I say anything more.”
5. Find a Way to Say “I care about you.”
Affirm the relationship. Let the other person know that, though you have concerns, you still value the relationship and you want to work through this together. For example, “Our relationship is important to me, but when you continually talk about how U of M is a superior football team it makes me, who is a Michigan State supporter, frustrated.” (Spartans that one is for you.) Of course you can fill in the blanks for yourself.
“Forgiveness is both an event and a process.” Ken Sande
Make forgiveness concrete with a few promises:
I promise I won’t bring this up in the future and use it against you.
I promise I’m not going to dwell on it in my own heart and mind.
I’m not going to talk to other people about it.
I’m not going to let it stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.
How can you implement these skills in one of your relationships? Take personal responsibility to do your part in having good arguments. God will help you do it.