When having an argument, there is a need for you to avoid using certain phrases as they can screw things up much more than solving them. When you argue, you are at your most animal. Your brain literally enters fight-or-flight mode, your heart-rate escalates, and logic and reasoning physically shut down.
That perhaps informs the reason why a lot of people regret the things they said earlier. We are all guilty of the same stupidity, and sometimes the key to a painless argument lies in the things we don’t say. For starters, here are five research-backed phrases proven to make any bad argument worse.
Don’t mention getting calm
The biggest mistake most people make in an argument is denying the other person’s feelings. Think for a moment if the words “calm down” have ever actually made you calmer. More than likely, they’ve only ever made you feel more annoyed.
Telling a person to calm down assigns them a negative emotion (be it anger, anxiety, stubbornness, etc.) while denying their actual feelings. This seeming lack of empathy can be detrimental to reaching a mutual understanding, which is a far more important outcome than “winning” an argument. Instead of telling your companion how to feel, try to understand how they feel in the first place.
Don’t Shut Down Their Emotions
Always let the other person vent, no matter how long or loud that venting may be. If the emotional level is high, your first task is to take some of the emotion out. Hold back and let them speak their minds. You don’t have to agree with it, but listen.
Most times, just talking honestly about a problem is enough to make a person feel better about it. And since you are a participant in the argument, know that every word your companion says is a step toward mutual understanding. Just thread carefully.
Never Fake Empathy
You could be trying to say, “your emotions are valid,” but the other person will more likely hear, “I get it—so stop talking.” Instead of merely saying you understand someone’s feelings, show them by paraphrasing.
The idea is to really listen to what the other side is saying and feed it back to them, by doing that, you’re trying to discover what’s important to them, and secondly, you’re trying to help them hear what they’re saying to find out if what they are saying makes sense.
Don’t Tell Someone How To React
It may sound to you like you’re acknowledging the other person’s feelings, but by adding a “should” or “shouldn’t” you are condemning and judging them just as much. Instead of judging a feeling, try giving it a concrete name by saying something like, “You sound pretty hurt about [problem]. It doesn’t seem fair.” It identifies a feeling, then adds a new layer of understanding that can lead to a potential solution.