How to Argue Mindfully

shutterstock_255824092Mindfulness is a millennia old Buddhist practice that has lately gotten a lot of attention in the West, particularly in the media. In an age where we are constantly distracted by a legion of small devices, mindfulness teaches us to clear out all the junk and focus solely on enjoying the here and now. It is incredibly relaxing. By taking the stress and tension out of situations, and making us hyper-focused, we can see problems better, get to solutions faster, and do so in a manner that doesn’t set off the defenses of our partner. Research has shown that conflict is a natural, healthy part of any relationship. Those who do argue tend to work out problems. Couples who ignore them see them grow bigger and bigger, until they consume everything. No matter how well matched you are, sooner or later you and your boo are going to have a disagreement. How you and your partner go about fixing it makes all the difference. So argue mindfully. Sold? Well, here’s how to do it. The first thing to do is to dissolve judgment. In today’s world where we are bombarded by a constant stream of stimuli, we are used to judging something every three seconds. But rash judgments can be damaging to a relationship. Instead, dispel your feelings, wave away judgment, and replace it with curiosity.

A detached, objective, curious view is what you should strive for. Instead of blurting out a rash judgment, put forth a question. Ask for some more information. Get clarification. Reach into the heart of the matter, and investigate it from all sides before making an evaluation. We get so caught up emotionally in a disagreement with our partner. But if we and they can both remain calm, take a step back and learn more about the situation, misunderstandings will become apparent, lessening the chance of fighting about nothing, and it will help tease out certain aspects that you can understand, or that may help negotiate a mutually acceptable solution. This disassociating one’s emotions from one’s argument can be seen in Western culture, embodied in lawyers. Though they do not have the best reputation, we can see ourselves arguing the facts instead of what our heart is screaming at us. The difference between acting like a lawyer and arguing mindfully however is that lawyers are competitive, and only argue their own side to win. Their success depends upon the failure of their opponent. But in a relationship we strive for the win-win. Get too competitive and you may win the battle and lose your partner in the meantime.

Mindfulness must come complete with compassion. Not only should we venture forward curiously in a manner that objectively studies all aspects of the situation, we should strive to understand our partner and where they are coming from. We need to know what emotions are embodied within this conflict, and if there are any that underlie what is being portrayed. Instead of focusing on our own emotions in the heat of the moment, take a step back and try to understand theirs. We must not see our partner as our adversary, or else we set up an adversarial relationship that is bound to bring anger and resentment in, and cause issues. Instead, we should view them as our partner who sees things in a different way. We should come to see their point of view, and ours, and begin to discover what connections they have, and what kind of compromise or strategy can be employed to do the right thing, finding an option which satisfies both of you. Sure, sometimes you have to give a little, and so do they. But most people count fairness as an important quality and that is no less employed here. We have a tendency to fight in a way that falls into old patterns, either formed in our long-term relationship or modeled after our parents. But if we learn how to fight better, we can have closer, deeper, more satisfying relationship, where the emotional pain is brought to a minimum, and with the warmth, love, and compassion brought up to full capacity.

For more tips on this read, How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful by David Richo and Kathlyn Hendricks.

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