How to Stay Out of an Argument

From kids to spouses to co-workers, people can and do get angry or upset. Once an argument begins, rarely does anything get accomplished besides both of you becoming more angry. Wouldn't it be great to just stay out of an argument right from the start?


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    Ask yourself these 4 questions: Is the matter important enough to warrant an argument? Is it appropriate to argue about the matter, or at this time? Can anything be changed, made different by prevailing in the argument? Is the issue worth arguing about? If you get a NO answer to any of these questions, there is no point in arguing. Sometimes realizing there is no benefit to arguing is enough to eliminate the temptation to argue. (A mnemonic for this is "I AM Worth it.")
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    If you often argue with a person, plan and practice staying calm. Plan a short conversation, with a specified stopping time. You don't need to tell the other person. Plan to enjoy a reward if you make it through your conversation without falling into an argument. Plan a (mild) punishment if you don't. Go into the conversation focused on your goal of maintaining your composure. Whenever any difficulties arise, remind yourself of your goal and the punishment if you fail to meet your target. Give yourself permission to withdraw early if you feel heat.
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    Learn to recognize when a discussion is no longer a discussion, but is escalating to an argument: Raised voices, flushed face or neck, hairs on the back of your neck stand up, feeling defensive. A good mutual discussion involves both sides listening and attempting to understand each other.
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    Identify your "buttons". These are the things that typically set you off: someone saying "I hate you!", swear words, slamming doors, obscene gestures, attacking your beliefs, someone rolling their eyes at you, etc.
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    Know that others know where to find your buttons. If they really want to win an argument, they'll push 'em, too. When you recognize someone approaching your buttons, think to yourself, "Ah-hah! This is becoming an argument!"
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    Say these words in the calmest tone of voice you can muster: "I love", "I care about", or "I respect" you too much to argue with you." If you can, add: "I'll be glad to talk with you when we can both be calm."
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    Prepare yourself for weird looks (the same ones they usually give you behind your back) and another attempt to keep the arguing going... like "That's not true!" or "Well, I don't love you."
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    Repeat step 4.
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    Try not to listen too much to the content of what they're saying back to you. Remember, they're TRYING to push your buttons. They may even say something like "You're so stupid you can only come up with that to say."
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    Continue repeating step 4 until the other person walks away or shuts up.
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    If warranted, when both of you ARE calm, ask if this is a good time to finish your discussion.


  • Be prepared to repeat step 4 again and again whenever it becomes necessary. Before long, people won't even try to argue with you, or push your buttons.
  • You've heard the adage, "project what you expect." Well, when we remain calm and refuse to argue, we're showing others how to do the same thing, preventing future arguments from even beginning.
  • In order for this to work, you MUST remain calm, cool and collected.
  • It takes two or more to argue. By politely refusing to argue, you stay out of it.
  • You may choose other phrases to use, like "You know, I really don't want to argue with you. Let's discuss it later when we've calmed down." or simply, "Not gonna' argue with you."
  • Listen carefully to the other person's point of view, but don't be afraid to offer up your own.
  • Be the bigger person.
  • Determine some activities you'll do to help you to remain calm: yoga, going for walks, listening to music, praying, etc.
  • Be adult enough to apologize when necessary.
  • Walk away. Sometimes it's a simple as that. If you want to get away from it, just walk away and don't look back.
  • Put on a straight face. It's hard to defend your opinion if you're laughing- or worse- crying.
  • Speak and act slowly so you have sufficient time to think things through. This will also allow anger to decrease a little.
  • Remember the goal is to get out of the situation.


  • If you become angry, know that you won't be able to think calmly, and you'll probably say or do something you might regret. Words, once spoken, can never be taken back. You might sincerely apologize, but it doesn't erase the memory. Think before you speak.
  • Don't respond to the content of their remarks. The less you say, the less likely you are to get drawn into an argument.
  • DON'T laugh. When you see this working, you may be tempted to smile or laugh at the excitement of finally finding something that works. Don't do it. This'll just irritate the person and make it worse. Wait until you're alone, then enjoy the moment.
  • DON'T use this to squelch all conversation. If a topic needs discussion, do it. You might initiate the conversation this way: "I could see we weren't accomplishing much earlier. Is this a good time to finish our discussion?"

Things You'll Need

  • Your wits.
  • A calm demeanor.
  • A willingness to do the right thing.
  • A topic you can revert to if/when the argument dies down, to quickly change the subject.

Article Info

Categories: Managing Arguments