Mental Health


Self Improvement

Mandy Kloppers

What to do when you can’t agree

When you’re in a relationship with someone or communicating in general, there will be times when you can’t agree. During those times when you can’t see eye to eye, there are ways to navigate the disagreement that will help you come out fairly unscathed.

Few people like conflict and when you can’t agree, the possibility of a major row becomes more likely. I’ve put together a list of useful tips to help diffuse tension:

Agree to disagree

Sometimes it’s better to be happy than to be right. Learn to pick your battles and if the argument is about something you can let go of, do so. This doesn’t mean that you are conceding that the other person is right but it shows that you have the ability to accept differences in opinion. It’s okay to disagree, as long as you can both come to terms with your differences there is no need to pick a side. If you can co-exist harmoniously despite your differences, then there is no need to harp on about who is right and who is wrong. Besides, imagine if you agreed on everything, it would be very boring.

Use a safe word

Some couples choose a safe word that they can use when they want to temporarily stop communication. If you find the argument has become volatile you can use the safe word. When you say the safe word, it’s time to have a break and regroup. Effective communication stops when voices become raised and both parties refuse to budge. Insults and blaming are also unproductive and escalate conflict rapidly. When you notice that communication has stopped and anger has appeared, it’s time to use the safeword and walk away. You can address the issue once more when you have both calmed down and reasoning is back in the picture.

Try assertive script

In relationships, communication is either passive, assertive or aggressive. Neither passive nor aggressive communication is ideal. Passive behaviour is an attitude of ‘your needs ahead of mine’ and aggressive communication asserts: ‘my needs ahead of yours’ whereas assertive behaviour is middle ground – a win-win situation. You are entitled to ask for your need to be met but that doesn’t mean your partner has to agree. Using assertive script is the most favoured format for assertive and healthy communication.

It goes like this: I feel  (emotion), when you  (behaviour, and what I would prefer is  (your suggestion here). Using aggressive words such as “You always” or “You never” encourages the receiver to become defensive and stop listening. Assertive script encourages open communication where you can’t agree and will get your partner to listen to you.

Listen to your partner

Arguments rarely occur in a vacuum. They often stem from underlying issues in the relationship. Do your best to listen to your partner when you can’t agree and provided they are offering logic and are being reasonable, try to have empathy and put yourself in their shoes. Really listen and try not to interrupt with your reply until they have finished. You could also rephrase what they have said to ensure that you have understood before you reply. Working hard to understand the other person’s point of view might lead you to rethink your approach and perhaps you might end up on the same page.

See a couple’s counsellor when you can’t agree

At times, couples need outside help. An objective mediator who will be on the side of the relationship and will help both parties to have more empathy for each other. Couples get into a pattern of communicating and some patterns are dysfunctional and cause more problems. If you find that you can’t communicate with your partner, your best bet is to talk with a third person. A good counsellor will listen to both sides and won’t indulge in blame or shame. Rather, the focus will be on problem-solving and helping you reconnect with your partner.

Good communication is key to a successful relationship. if you rarely resolve your arguments, the next stage is often withdrawal, resentment and the destruction of the bond you have. Assumptions are made and before you know it, dislike and even hatred have replaced love and feeling connected.

Don’t ignore ineffective communication, the sooner you resolve your barriers, the more likely you will be to maintain a happy, properous relationship.