So, you did it again! You allowed your mouth, words, or tone to lead you into another argument. Same results, different person. This week, it was a coworker. Last week, it was your wife. And before that, it was your teenager.
If you’re anything like me, you probably struggle to avoid arguments with the people who matter most to you. And if that’s the case, allow me to share what you can do that can help reduce the severity and frequency of future arguments. All you have to do is ask yourself these 4 simple questions after any argument.
1. How did I contribute to this?
Even if the argument wasn’t your fault, it still takes two people to argue. Personally, even if I win an argument, I always tend to feel guilty right afterward. It’s probably because Mark Twain was right when he said, “Never argue with an idiot, because you’ll never convince the idiot that you’re right, and bystanders won’t be able to tell who’s who.” This is particularly true whenever I get into an argument with my wife in front of the kids. The kids don’t seem to care who won the argument because all they see is two idiots arguing.
So, honestly ask yourself: What role did you play in the argument? What did you say? What did you do? What part was your fault? Then own it.
2. What could I have done differently?
They say hindsight is 20/20. And that’s true, but wisdom isn’t. Even if you know better, you can still hit the same potholes if you keep driving down the same street. So, right after an argument, go back and examine the route you took to get there. What would you change? Would you have used different words? Would you have waited for a better time? Would you have changed your tone? Would you have asked more questions and made fewer assumptions? Even if you could change the past, it doesn’t necessarily mean things would have turned out different; but maybe they could’ve turned out better.
Go back and retrace and replay your communication steps.
3. What did I learn from this?There’s no such thing as winning or losing; there’s only winning or learning.
My wrestling coach once told me after losing a close match that cost our team a victory, “Joe, there’s no such thing as winning or losing; there’s only winning or learning.” Even at age 16, I understood what Coach was trying to teach me. Arguing can sometimes feel like wrestling matches. Sometimes “I win” and come out on top, and then there are times I feel like I lose and severely hurt my team. But now, 35 years later, I realize Coach was right. There are no losers in sports, or in life, as long as you learn something from the experience.
So, after an argument, ask yourself: What did you learn about yourself, your attitude, and your fears? What did you learn about theirs? And what did you learn from this that could possibly benefit you the next time something like this happens?
4. How can I make things better now?
This requires humility on your part. Just as it takes two people to argue, it only takes one mature person to end the argument. I know for most men, admitting we’re wrong, apologizing, and seeking forgiveness aren’t the easiest things to do. But if the relationship really matters to you, then they’re the most necessary things to do. Particularly in my relationship with my wife and children, whether I’m right or wrong, I’m quick to apologize and seek forgiveness—not because I want to, but because I love them and I care more about the relationship than about being right. I don’t apologize for their wrong. I just apologize for my part in the argument.
Lasting love requires us to ask, “What can I do to make things right?” and then to follow through. You may not always be able to avoid arguments, but you can definitely learn from every one of them.
Sound off: What is something you learned from your last argument?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Who is the last person you had an argument with and how did you make things right?”