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The One Thing to Always Do When Arguing

How to quickly resolve any conflict with someone close to you.

Key points

  • A person's eyes can reveal what he/she is truly thinking and feeling, despite what that person may be saying.
  • Look at that person's eyes no matter what bleep may come out of your mouths.
  • During an argument, it's important to take in as much information from each other as possible. Remain curious.
  • Maintaining eye contact can provide a natural check on what you end up saying to the other person as well.
Malte Mueller/Getty
When you don't look at the other person's eyes, you may not be able to tell what he or she is truly feeling.
Source: Malte Mueller/Getty

The next time you are in an argument with someone close to you, remember: eyes, eyes, baby. And not ice, ice, baby.

Make sure that you continue to look at the other person's eyes no matter what bleep may come out of each of your mouths. That's because that person's eyes can reveal what he or she is truly feeling at the time. Such crucial info may help melt your defensive position and help you resolve the argument a whole lot more quickly rather than let it drag on and on.

I saw this with great clarity soon after I had had an argument with someone whom I was talking to over a smartphone. During the argument, I was walking around and paying attention to my surroundings rather than looking at the other person so that I wouldn't, you know, fall into a manhole or something like that. Arguing via a smartphone without actually looking at the person was a dumb thing to do as I did end up falling down a figurative manhole.

Throughout much of the argument, I was only listening to the other person's voice and specific words and thus failed to see the bigger picture for a while. Or any real picture of that person for that matter. In my mind, that person's words seemed sharp and rather cold since that's what words can sound like when they come from a highly intelligent person who is in the middle of an argument and feeling defensive. Focusing on such words rather than the larger view of the person prompted me to dig in further, not give ground, and use sharper and surely colder-sounding language as well. All of this back-and-forth escalation led to a cycle of sheesh and misunderstanding that lasted way too long.

Had I actually looked into that person's eyes earlier, I would have been more cognizant sooner about how that person was really feeling. I would have realized how terrible that person felt about being caught in the argument. It would have made me more aware of my misunderstanding of what that person was saying. Had I had that awareness earlier, I would have probably more quickly shifted into "Let's resolve this argument" mode rather than staying in a defensive mode. Seeing how an argument is affecting someone you care about can be the key emotional feedback that snaps you back into why-are-we-doing-this-because-we-are-on-the-same-team sensibility.

When you are engaged in a conflict, it's really important to use all of your senses. Conflicts, especially between those who in actuality really want the best for each other, can typically arise from miscommunication and misunderstanding. Even though you can both deep down want the same thing and want harmony, in the moment you may not be able to fully and accurately express yourselves. Therefore, it is important to take in as much information from each other as possible. Be curious about what the other person is really thinking and feeling. At the same time, be as open as you can be. And you can't do either of these things when you aren't even freaking looking at the person.

irinamunteanu/Getty
At times, you may find it difficult to look into the other person's eyes when he or she is saying something that you don't want to hear.
Source: irinamunteanu/Getty

Now, at times, you may find it difficult to look into the other person's eyes when he or she is saying something that you don't want to hear. In actuality, though, you don't have to stare at the person's eyes intently at all times. Maintaining unrelenting eye contact as if you were a robot could become a bit disconcerting. But, in general, it's a good idea to maintain eye contact as much as possible.

Maintaining eye contact can provide more of a natural check on what you end up saying as well. Social media has proven that it's a whole lot easier to say harsh words to someone else when you don't have to see that person and that person's reaction. But when you get more immediate feedback on your words and language from the person's eyes, you may be more naturally inclined to soften what you have to say.

So, the next time you find yourself disagreeing with someone close to you, make sure that you quickly position yourself in the right manner before continuing in any way. In this case, positioning doesn't refer to the framing of your argument or claims. Instead, it means going on video and making sure that you are directly facing each other and can see each other's eyes.

Or even better, make sure that you are directly in each other's physical presence in the same room or space. Agree to delay the argument until both of you can be in such a proper position. Then try to maintain eye contact throughout the interaction, especially when you or the other person is talking. Ultimately, the eyes may have it in a good way, which can lead to more ayes and fewer nays between the two of you.

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