Helpful Words to Use During an Argument

If you’re like most couples, you know that arguments are, like it or not, a mainstay in any married relationship. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing; if you do it right, these misunderstandings can open up the way for getting to know each other better.

When Daniel and I get into a “serious discussion,” there are certain words he says that really sets me off. For example, he’s very fond of saying, “Why did you…?” It makes me feel like a little kid being interrogated by an irate teacher, and the more he does that, the more I retreat into my shell and clam up—which irritates him further!

Of course, I’ve since learned healthier ways of dealing with conflict that doesn’t involve me hiding my face in my pillow and pretending to be asleep. But I’m sharing this because some words we say during an argument can really push our partner’s buttons and increase the heat, while other words can help reduce tension. 

In this post, we hope to share some of the healthy words to use during an argument.

Nothing diffuses anger in a conflict better than admitting you’re sorry.
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Top 5 Phrases to Ease Tension in an Argument

If you want to help your spouse (and yourself calm down) while in the heat of conflict, try using these top 5 phrases:  

1. I feel [insert emotion here].

Face it, when we are in the heat of a conflict, our tendency is to point out all the things that the other person did wrong. Clearly, that can escalate things quickly and possibly lead nowhere but more hurt for both of you.

Instead, consider expressing how you feel about the situation. You might say, “I feel really hurt when you said that.” Usually, when we become vulnerable, it lowers the other person’s defenses, and may even lead to them realising how their actions affected you; sometimes, they might even automatically apologise, even if it’s grudgingly at first.

Remember, though, that we’re talking about emotions, not perceptions. Some of us are used to saying things like, “I feel like you’re being a jerk!” and that’s not expressing your feelings! Think about the different emotions: angry, hurt, sad, happy, excited, tense, pressured, guilty, and fill in the the blanks.

2. I understand that you feel [insert paraphrase of your spouse’s feelings]. 

Humans tend to argue when we feel like we’re not heard. The more we feel misunderstood, the more likely we would raise our voices.

When you and your spouse are in a conflict, remember that it’s not just about your needs, but also your partner’s. Saying “I understand that you feel…” lets you intentionally pay attention to what he or she is saying. Then, rephrase whatever it was that your spouse said it to make sure you understood him or her clearly.

3. I need [insert your need here]. 

Another helpful thing to say during an argument is “I need…” Instead of complaining about what your partner did or didn’t do, when you express what you need, it takes the pressure off of them and lets them focus on what you’re needing at the moment.

Of course, it may not always be heard right away, but once your spouse sees that you’re not attacking him or her, and are simply letting them know your needs, it can change the tide for the better.

4. I’m sorry.

Nothing diffuses anger in a conflict better than admitting you’re sorry! But some things need to be in place: do you know there’s a right and wrong way to apologise? For example, you can say, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and sometimes that can work, but other times, it can make your spouse feel that it’s his fault for feeling that way!

Instead, when you apologise, verbalise what you did that was wrong. “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings by what I said.” “I’m sorry for being insensitive to your needs.”

5. How can I make things better next time?

You can go one step further not only by apologising, but also by asking your spouse how you can do better next time. This shows that you are not only sorry for what happened, but also that you want to make an effort to avoid the same mistake in the future. After all, who likes having to deal with the same issue over and over again?

Choose Healthy Communication to Resolve Conflict

We hope this post has inspired you to choose the healthy route in the heat of any conflict with your spouse. It may not be easy nor automatic; we encourage you to pick one of these phrases and try them out the next time you have an argument. Then slowly add the others until they become almost second nature to you.

For more tips on resolving conflict with your partner, check out our e-book, Can’t We Just Get Along?! and our other resources!

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