7 Things Not to Say During an Argument

Ahhh, arguments. What couple doesn’t have them? But do you know that knowing the right words to use—and those to avoid!—can spell the difference between whether it escalates or simmers down?

But don’t think we’ve got it all down pat. I admit, we have this list right now because it includes many of the lines that Joy and I have used a lot. And we’ve seen how they have fanned the flame of our conflict. For example, in the past, when she tells me something I did had hurt her, my first impulse was to say, “Why are you so sensitive? Why are you hurt?” But the fact is that she’s already hurt, and my role is to acknowledge it instead of questioning her feelings.

In this post we want to equip you with the top 7 things you should never say while in an argument! Restrain yourself; bite your tongue if you have to, count one to ten, do whatever it takes to keep these lines off of the conversation. Your heart will thank you for it later on when you see that you may have just averted a second explosion!

In an argument, knowing the right words to use—and those to avoid!—can spell the difference between whether it escalates or simmers down.   
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What Not to Say When You’re in an Argument

Here are some of the most common lines we use when we’re right smack in the middle of an argument, but which we should NOT say:

Don’t Say: You’re not hearing me.
Instead Say: Can I share with you how I feel?

Recognize defensiveness either in yourself and your partner as a sign that perhaps it is time to listen actively. When you find yourself feeling unheard, take a step back and check if it’s just your own hurt feelings causing you to feel misunderstood. Then, share how the event made you feel instead of passing judgment on your spouse’s response.

Don’t Say: That reminds me of when I…
Instead Say: That must have made you feel…

Responding to what the other person says with your own stories takes the attention off them. Keep the focus on your partner by saying, “It sounds like…” or “You must have felt…”

Don’t Say: I can’t believe you did that.
Instead Say: Tell me more about what happened.

Don’t reflect on right or wrong. Suspend judgment. It prevents disclosure. Seek understanding by saying, “Tell me more about that.”

Don’t Say: You are overreacting.
Instead Say: Can you tell me more about how it affects you?

Clarify what you hear and understand even if you think or feel that what your partner said wasn’t a big deal TO YOU. Find out why it is a big deal to him or her. Remember, our goal in communication is to seek to understand our partner’s heart.

Don’t Say: You say I am always… but you are even worse…
Instead Say: From what you are saying, you would like me to be more [insert trait here].

Comparing who is the greater sinner is a setup for strife. Instead, listen to what your partner is requesting from you and confirm that by asking, “so you want me to be more [insert trait here]. Am I correct?”

Don’t Say: I get it, I get it. Now my turn.
Instead Say: What I hear is, this is how you feel…

I’m not proud to admit that this is—or used to be?—my favorite line! The problem with saying this is that we may not really be listening, and just waiting for our turn to speak. The whole point is reflective listening: what I hear is, you feel this and this and this. It’s clearly easier said than done!

Don’t rush the process. Make sure your partner agrees that you have understood him or her before asking for permission to share your perspective.

Don’t Say: How many times must we work through this again…
Instead Say: I would like us to be proactive, can we make plans for this?

Now, this line is an indication that you may have not set future plans to prevent the conflict from occurring again. Once you have reached understanding, decide on how you will manage the conflict if it comes up once more—and most likely, it will!

Focus on Listening During an Argument

Although disagreements and misunderstandings may leave a sour taste in our mouth, we don’t have to avoid them. Instead, we can learn how to resolve them in a healthy way. As we do so, it can help us grow stronger in our relationship.

One of the ways we can do that is to focus on listening. Again, it’s not that easy to apply. We ourselves are still working on learning to be more attentive listeners. It’s a skill I want to master! Will you join us in improving our communication so that our marriage can grow and flourish?

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