Choosing the right words are perhaps the single most important key to ending arguments and avoiding arguments.
You're going to disagree with people, and when you feel it is necessary to voice your disagreement, choosing the right words are essential. No two people can ever agree on everything. When you feel it necessary to voice your disagreement, your approach, your words, your mannerisms all come into play on how other people react to your disagreement.
How you approach a disagreement is nearly as important as what you are willing to disagree about.
For most disagreements, you should use words that won't spark an argument. I use a variety of trigger words and phrases that help avoid an argument.
Think about this: words mean things to us. The words you use will convey much more than a definition, but also that of an impression of your mindset. The wrong words can cause people to get defensive, believing that you are attacking them. The wrong words can make people feel foolish, grow angry, and see you as an interrogator, rather than a friend or a loved one.
I use a variety of trigger words and phrases in the hope of building the right atmosphere and mental image of what I am trying to say. These are important. If I set someone on the defensive, or worse yet, the offensive, I have lost the ability to help, change, or fix anything.
#1 - "I NEED YOU'RE ADVICE OR HELP"
* I often open up a disagreement with this phrase.
* This delivers the idea that I am seeking their help, not attacking them.
* This conveys that their opinion is important and that they aren't stupid or foolish.
* It also hints that I have need of them, that they are needed and thus important.
* I've avoided many an argument by just using this opening.
* EXAMPLE: A teenage boy was getting himself into trouble. I went to him and said something like this. "Hey, I need your advice on something. I'm not quite sure how to handle it, and since it involves you, I thought you could help me. Several times now you have done this thing, we both know it is not a good thing, and we both know the problems it causes. What I don't know is what I ought to do about it. I can't ignore it, I wouldn't be a good pastor if I did, and I don't believe for a second that you are enjoying the consequences. What do you think should be done? I have two ideas, and I wanted to know what you thought." I would give the ideas, listen very carefully to what he said to me, and he walked away feeling, rightly so, that I cared about him, his problems, his opinion and so forth. As a result he gave my ideas thought and attention. The problem was corrected.
#2 - "YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT."
* Many times, when I am in a disagreement with someone, I will say that phrase.
* Most disagreements have rightness on both sides. Often a statement that is made is correct, even if the context and intent is wrong.
* Instead of always saying, "you're wrong", or "that's stupid", or "don't be foolish", I instead say, "you're absolutely right" and then re-explain what they just said with a different intent. Rarely do they argue with me when I do this.
* Doing this, will seem like you aren't really arguing with them, or disagreeing with them. Thus they have no reason to be defensive or angry.
* EXAMPLE: Someone says: "The president is an idiot." If I disagree, I'd respond. "You're right. It doesn't matter who the politician is, they all have to make absurd compromises to be anywhere close to being effective. I think just wanting to be a politician is idiotic. In fact, no matter how good a president is, he is always trapped by the politics of the other side...so you're right, he was probably an idiot for even wanting to be president." Very subtly, I shifted the concept from the president is an idiot to his choice was possibly idiotic due to the nature of politics. Thus I spoke my disagreement without sparking an argument.
#3 - "IT'S MY FAULT"
* I use this often when someone thinks I did something wrong, but I don't really agree with them. Instead of saying that I wasn't wrong, I will instead use the phrase, "It's my fault", because somewhere I failed to transfer my intent to this person...so, to some degree, it is my fault.
* I will say something like, "It's my fault. I should have explained it better. I hope you will forgive me, sometimes I get carried away and fail to make things clear. I didn't intend to do that, but it is still my fault."
* I also use this phrase to repair relationships.
#4 - "WHAT DO YOU THINK?"
* Very similar to "I need your advice", but I use it in a different way. I use this trigger phrase when I want to provide a different way of doing something...a way I think is BETTER!
* Again, this conveys the mental mindset that I am not really correcting them, that their opinions are valid and important, that I am not trying to ride rough shod over them.
* I provide it as an alternative, but an attractive one at that.
* EXAMPLE: If I see someone doing something in a manner that I think could be better, I'll try to do it this way, "Hey, I've got an idea and want to know what you think. We could do this and that and then this would do that, is that a good idea to you? Or we could do this slight change here, what do you think?" Any minor refinement they make to the idea I jump on and say, "Hey that's a great idea!"
* If you use this one right, they even leave thinking the idea was really theirs, not yours.
* If you present the idea correctly, particularly if it IS a better idea, you can give them a choice within the idea's framework. Which ever one they chose, you exclaim, "That's a great idea!" And they often leave with a sense of pride.
Allowing people to retain their dignity is essential to disagreeing in ways that don't spark a full blown verbal war. Practice using these trigger phrases, and you'll find that they help you to avoid many of the arguments that are common to relationships.
Greg S. Baker is a Pastor, Counselor, and Author specializing in building and strengthening relationships.
For more books and resources on how to communicate better, express yourself, and strengthen social skills. Check out our book, 'Fitly Spoken', a Christian based book that explores the intricacies of human communication and expression in relationships.