Have you ever had a conversation like this one?

“You bought the wrong kind.”

“I did not.”

(louder) “You did too. You never listen to me.”

(even louder)”Yes I do.”

“No you don’t……”

A conversation like this one can easily escalate into an argument that can leave you feeling like you are stuck in mud – going nowhere fast.  Rather than working to communicate clearly the conversation resorted to being, well, lazy.  You are left  feeling  both frustrated and angry,

The result of lazy communication is usually misunderstandings, disagreement, and arguing.  It  certainly doesn’t serve as an effective way to communicate and resolve issues.

Here are some  quick and easy tips that you can use when you feel a conversation is heading toward a full-blown argument:

1. Slow down

Raising your voice is a very quick way to escalate an argument.  Slow down, breath deeply and consciously lower the tone of your voice.

2. Pause

If you find yourself repeating the same thing over and over,  stop talking.  Pause and listen more than you talk .  Repeating yourself isn’t productive.  You end up talking at someone instead of having a real  dialogue..

3. Use positive words

Our brains have  a built-in “negativity bias” that makes us default to focusing more on the  negative than the positive.  Be aware of that and work to minimize the negative impact of your words.  Instead of saying “You’ are so lazy!”  say how the actions specifically affect you. Try, “I am tired of planning the entire trip and wish you help me with some of it.”

4. Stay on topic

It is easy to drag other  issues in to the conversation to prove your point.  That will only serve to bring in a variety of emotions and complexity causing the discussion can get off track quickly.

5. Use “we” instead of “you”

Try to make the goal achieving resolution, rather than winning. Think  about how you solve can the issue so that you will both be happy.  Make is a team problem, not an individual one (theirs).

6. Be accountable 

Acknowledge your role and your part in the argument,.  Show that you are willing to work on a resolution by saying you are sorry for your part in the situation.. Remember, there are always two sides to every story.

7. Don’t leave

Leaving, or shutting down and going quiet, will keep the issue from getting resolved. Take a break if you need to, but demonstrate that you care about the person and the issue by working  through it together.

Next time you feel like your conversation is getting stuck or heading toward an argument- try a few of these strategies.   You’ll be on the road to communicating together again in no time.


Betty Lochner
Betty Lochner is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people improve their communication at work and home.
For more information or to sign up for her monthly e-newsletter visit www.cornerstone-ct.com