Perhaps you had a few conversations in the past year you regret. Maybe your friend, neighbor, or family member went apocalyptic, and you matched the intensity. Rosalie Puiman, leadership coach and author of The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution, says that doesn’t have to be the case. Here are her top tips on how to argue better and cope with conflict.
1. Drop Your Ego
“If you’re having a tough discussion, especially around politics—and you want to be constructive—let go of the old paradigm of winning and losing,” Puiman says. Don’t argue to win, but rather to explore the intricacies of another person’s perspective. Shifting the narrative lowers the stakes.
2. Be Curious
“A great way in is to ask what the other person’s experiences have been. Be sincere, and share yours, too.” When you disclose something personal and make yourself vulnerable, it can make a divisive topic feel like less of a debate on moral mandates of right and wrong.
3. Tap Into Unsaid Emotions
Polarizing issues can automatically trigger anxiety and defensiveness. “The other person might be scared, angry, hurt, or they don’t feel seen. Identify that and say: ‘Wow, I sense so much pain in your words.’ ” Empathy can steer dialogue into neutral territory.
4. Know When to Walk
It’s okay to cut bait when things aren’t going well. “Say, ‘I think we’re touching on subjects we absolutely disagree on, and I don’t think it’s helpful to our relationship if we continue this.’ ” Changing the topic isn’t copping out.
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