Jennifer A. Samp Ph.D.

Conflict Matters

The Benefits of Arguing

Although often feared, arguing can be beneficial to relationships.

Posted Feb 04, 2018

Conflict and and arguing is often seen as negative and something to be avoided.  Many people see conflict as reflective of a “crack” in a relationship or a sign that a relationship is in trouble. Yet research suggests that the process of conflict and arguing facilitates talk and awareness of another’s perspective. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that conflict and arguing can be very beneficial to the health of friendships ad romantic relationships. In particular, facing the need to argue with a close other can be energizing and motivating—the topics that bring about arguments remind us of what is important to us-from our core values to our goals for a given day. Arguments also give us the opportunity to think about and voice how we feel about our relationships and “who we are” as friends or dating partners.

Rosesweet/Shutterstock
Source: Rosesweet/Shutterstock

So the first tip is to remember that conflict and arguing should not be seen as a threat—rather, it is an event that can help your relationship evolve and grow and for you to get to know a close relationship partner better. You can also learn about yourself in the process.

The second tip is that it is important to recognize when you are “ready” to argue. One of the biggest mistakes that friends and couples face is arguing when emotions are too “raw” and/or if they are not open to listening and to the other person’s side of an issue. Listening does not mean “acceptance”—rather, listening means that you are available to understand a partner’s perspective.  Therefore, it may not be the best time to have an argument as soon as an issue comes up, if you know that you are not going to be your most rational self. Schedule a time when you can both focus on the issue at hand without letting emotions or other distractions get in the way.

The third tip is to be flexible during an argument. A lot of us go into a conflicts or arguments with expectations about how it “should” turn out. But the exciting dynamic of communication is that our partners have the power to change our opinions or attitudes. And we should be open to change based on learning about a partner’s view of a situation. This does not mean that we should always bend to the will of another, but rather, we should be open to the possibility that changing our position is okay.

The fourth tip is to remember that we are all vulnerable. Even if a close relationship partner acts like he or she “knows it all,” we all question ourselves. We all have experiences that influence the way we approach arguments. But we should also be open to changing the way we do things. If we change ourselves, our partners will be more likely to change as well. Yet while we may recognize that we are vulnerable (even it is just to ourselves), it can be even more difficult to remember that our partners act out of vulnerability too. We often expect our partners to be “all knowing” or “perfect” in ways that we know we cannot achieve. On the flip side, we sometimes think that partners “just don’t get it” or “is just a typical man/woman.” It is easy to make snap judgments about what a partner “should” know. But an important part of effectively managing arguments is to take time to think about and appreciate a partner’s perceptive. No matter what our assumptions, it is important to stop and think about our needs, a partner’s needs, and what you need together to keep your friendship or romantic relationship alive.

References

Christensen, A., & Jacobson, N. S. (2000). Reconcilable differences. New York: Guilford.

Nay, W. R. (2004). Taking charge of anger.  New York: Guilford.

Samp, J. A. (Ed.) (2016). Communicating interpersonal conflict in close relationships:  Contexts, challenges,

and opportunities. Routledge. IBSN: 978-1138774902

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