When I first picked up this book, I didn’t know how valuable it would be for me considering my “unattached” status. The title, An End to Arguing, made me wish I’d had this resource decades ago when I really needed it. But then I read the subtitle, 101 Valuable Lessons for All Relationships. Key word All. The truth is at this stage in my life I really have nobody I can say I argue with except the sales associate at the Sprint store. But throughout every chapter, I found guidelines and tips, not only about arguing, but about living in peace with myself.
The authors, Linda and Charlie Bloom, are psychotherapists who have been married to each other for more than fifty years. They speak from personal experience in addition to their professional education, training, and counseling experience, which lends to their credibility! The chapters of the book are brief and titled by specific lessons so a reader can go back and review a specific area where help is needed to rescue a conversation, conflict, or relationship. I know I’ll be keeping these words of wisdom close at hand for those times when I need some reassurance or guidance when connecting with others.
Because An End to Arguing is packed with so many great lessons, I’ll touch here on those I related with most. I urge you to pick up a copy to enjoy the full experience! Tips I learned about:
Communication or “Conscious Combat” – What works:
- Acknowledgement of differences and preferences
- Apology (if sincere)
- Forgiveness (ourselves and others)
- Language using “I/me” versus “You”
- Listening to understand (without interrupting!)
- Managing breakdowns when they occur
- Reacting without defensiveness
Communication – What doesn’t work:
- Holding grudges
- Threats or ultimatums
- Turning up the volume
- Victim mentality (wallowing in self-pity)
With commitment and perseverance, old attitudes can be unlearned as we identify and practice new ways of thinking and communicating. Many conflicts arise out of fear. Some (like me) do everything possible to avoid conflict. Preserve harmony. Keep the peace. Yet, allowing feelings of anger, disappointment or fear to build up inside waiting to explode is not the answer. The result is usually escalated anxiety or resentment—not a healthy state when trying to recover. And sacrificing our own well-being to accommodate others is a loss for everyone.
The authors tell us it takes two to repair a conflict, but it only takes one partner to initiate the process. Slow down. Choose words carefully. “Tone” is more important than the words themselves (serious, not heavy-handed; committed, not controlling). Preparation is key! And although it takes two to tango, dancing around a conflict also isn’t the best way to connect.
When things start to escalate, a time-out period, or a taking a few minutes to return to calm, may help us regain composure so we can re-engage in a non-defensive way. During a time-out period, we can use curiosity to explore and uncover feelings buried under the surface. Self-care during this time isn’t selfish; it’s necessary.
Winning an argument is not the goal. What both parties usually want is a mutually satisfying outcome. Arguments can be productive versus destructive. The goal is to gather information from each other without trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong. Recognize the gifts each partner brings to the party.
Resist the temptation to give advice unless requested and remember we cannot “fix” or “change” someone. First, it is disrespectful. Second, it will never happen.
Avoid making comparisons, e.g. “You’re just like your mother” or using absolutes, e.g. “You always…” or “You never…”
Don’t punish with silent treatment. This can be more harmful than verbal abuse, which can be more harmful that physical abuse.
Sadly, even successful relationships sometimes can’t be repaired. To quote from the book, “Not all relationships can or should be saved. Knowing if and when to make that call is critical.” A “deal-breaker” is an abusive, addictive, or destructive behavior that can’t and shouldn’t be tolerated. If unsavory behaviors are tolerated for too long, the relationship can become toxic, and we lose our motivation to repair it. Without intention and commitment to changing hurtful behaviors, the relationship is unlikely to survive. A critical point made by the authors is: “Knowing when you need outside help and seeking it isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of intelligence.”
The help and guidance from this book is a resource everyone can benefit from. You can purchase a copy of the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Bookshop.org. Be sure to also add it to your GoodReads reading list.
Or, Visit the authors online: