Have you ever been surprised when a conversation escalates into an argument? Do you know that arguing can actually be good for your relationship? Of course, it depends on how partners argue. Elizabeth Bernstein’s article, “Fighting Happily Ever After” (Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2010) illustrates that there is a right way to fight and that dealing with disagreements effectively actually strengthens a relationship. It is important to realize that lack of ability and willingness to argue fairly often predicts of the demise of a relationship because issues not addressed tend to fester creating tension, distance and mistrust. Of course, it is difficult not to react when negative feelings are triggered. Fortunately, good communication skills, respect and a collaborative attitude significantly improve the probability of resolving differences constructively.

  • Arguments usually occur when people feel angry. Although a person may feel angry, it may be a mask for fear or pain. Appropriate anger usually results from unfairness or injustice.
  • A conflict situation usually provokes intense feelings such as fear, pain or anger. When a person feels threatened, they become defensive and may act angry, noisy, intense, hostile or shut down.
  • Any situation may be contaminated by residual thoughts, feelings or experience. Therefore, resentment, pain or fear may linger from an unresolved situation.

A disagreement can alert you to the existence of a problem, like a toothache signals a cavity. Be grateful for the information because you cannot solve a problem if you don’t know what it is. However, when things don’t add up, something else is probably going on. You need to solve the right issue with the right person at the right time.