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How To Argue Constructively, Effectively, and Without Hurting Your Loved Ones' Feelings

We all feel angry from time to time, but feeling angry and inflicting our full force fury on our loved ones are two very different things.

When we allow ourselves to explode at those we love on a regular basis, this behavior can deeply damage our relationships. Those of us who crave drama-"drama addicts" or "dramaholics"-sometimes start fights with loved ones just to experience an emotional "rush" or "high."

More specifically, drama addicts seem to feel "most alive" in the midst of an emotional melt-down. It can be difficult to break the drama habit, but the effort is well worthwhile, because out-of-control drama and rage have destroyed far too many relationships.

Here are three practical tips to learn how to "drop the drama" and argue in a healthier, more constructive way with your loved ones.

  1. Anger Management

    When arguing, we all need to stay "on point" and steer clear of insulting our loved ones.

    In all of your arguments, always stay focused as a laser beam on the topic at hand.

    Let's say a wife is having an argument with her husband about who does what around the house. Her position is that she feels she does too much housework, while he does too little.

    If she wants a big, dramatic blow-out, all she has to do is stray from the topic of housework and launch into a full-scale, insult-laden attack, rattling off all of the things he does wrong, screaming about how lazy and slovenly he is, etc.

    In other words, if she is looking for a big, ugly, down-and-dirty fight, she just has to scream: "I do all the housework around here! You are unbelievably lazy! In fact, you're the laziest person I've ever met! If I didn't clean up after you all the time, you'd just lie around wallowing in your own filth, like the big, fat, disgusting pig you are!"

    On the other hand, if she wants to make her points clearly, concisely, and without hurting her husband's feelings, she could say: "I feel like I do most of the chores around here, and I really need you to pitch in more than you have been doing."

    Simply put, there is never any need for a discussion about housework to escalate into a nasty, full-blown, insult-laced fight about everything under the sun. And remember, people who stay "on point" in their arguments with loved ones frequently get what they want, and best of all, they achieve their objectives without resorting to cruelty.

  2. Never fight "dirty." Always fight "clean."

    Never lunge for your loved one's emotional "Achilles' Heel" or "soft spot" in an argument. It's too easy, and quite frankly, it's too mean. We all know how to push our loved ones' buttons, but just because we know exactly what their vulnerable spots are, this does not mean that we should use our knowledge of their particular vulnerabilities to our advantage in the midst of an argument.

    Any type of overly aggressive, hypercritical, "going-straight-for-the-jugular" style of arguing can be considered a form of "fighting dirty." It is almost never justified, and it's a classic example of throwing The Golden Rule right out the window at the exact moment when we need it the most.

    The ongoing practice of The Golden Rule (treating others exactly as you wish to be treated) is the cornerstone of all healthy relationships.

    Therefore, it is precisely during moments of intense conflict, anger and tension when we need to take extra precautions about how we express our feelings to loved ones. Words can be wielded like weapons, and all mature adults-even adults who are right in the middle of a big argument-have an obligation not to make weapons out of their words.

    Not only do people who practice The Golden Rule achieve greater peace and harmony in their relationships, but as an added benefit, they also tend to have higher self-esteem, because they have worked very hard to develop the skills and resources necessary to resolve their conflicts in a calmer, kinder, more mature manner.

  3. Anger Management

    The Golden Rule is the key to both constructive, non-hurtful arguing with your partner ... and making up afterward!

    Always avoid "Extreme Fighting" or "Ultimatum-Based Fighting"

    "Extreme fighting" is to human relationships what "extreme sports" are to athletes.

    In other words, people who enjoy extreme sports such as bungee jumping, sky diving, and black diamond skiing tend to be self-professed "thrill junkies," who only seem to find satisfaction in pushing themselves beyond their athletic limits. They feel addicted to the adrenaline rush associated with performing death-defying stunts. Similarly, in human relationships, "extreme fighters"-much like "extreme athletes"-often find ordinary life too boring and bland, so they try to "spice things up" by arguing with those they love in an extreme, unhealthy, overly dramatic manner.

    Some "extreme fighters" like to issue ultimatums. For instance, an "extreme fighter" might turn a minor argument about who is supposed to take out the trash into a massive fight, with the "extreme fighter" dramatically shouting that if his partner does not "take out the trash right this minute, it's time for a divorce!"

    Sometimes there are two extreme partners in a relationship. But interestingly, some extreme fighters have partners who are very quiet and not at all interested in emotional drama, and who actually feel quite bewildered each time a minor disagreement suddenly escalates into a massive blow-up.

    Once again, as with "dirty fighting," the "takeaway message" about "extreme" or "ultimatum-based fighting" is that an insatiable craving for drama (on the part of one or both partners), destroys far too many relationships.

None of us behave perfectly with our loved ones every minute of every day. In fact, we all have times when we feel so angry that we momentarily forget about "The Golden Rule" and end up saying something that we instantly regret.

The key is not to allow a pattern of negative behavior to become the norm in our relationships. We all need to pay close attention to our personal arguing styles, and those of us who infuse too much drama into our conflicts need to put a stop to such destructive behavior immediately.

Fortunately, we all have the power within us to improve our arguing techniques, to show our loved ones all the love and respect they deserve-and to expect the same love and respect in return.

About the Author contributing editor Rachel G. Baldino, MSW, LCSW, is the author of the e-book, Loving Simply: Eliminating Drama from Your Intimate Relationships, published in 2006 by, and the print book, Welcome to Methadonia: A Social Worker's Candid Account of Life in a Methadone Clinic, published in 2000 by White Hat Communications.

Her articles have appeared in Social Work Today, The New Social Worker, New Living Magazine, and other publications. After earning her MSW from the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work in1997, she provided counseling services, first at a methadone clinic, and later at an outpatient mental health treatment facility.

Ms. Baldino has been quoted about managing anger in relationships in Kathy Svitil's 2006 book, Calming The Anger Storm, which is part of the Psychology Today Here To Help series. She has also been quoted in such magazines, newspapers and online publications as For Me Magazine, Conceive Magazine, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Albany Times Union, The Tallahassee Democrat, Bay State Parent Magazine,,,, The Newhouse News Service, and Indianapolis Woman. She lives with her husband and children in Massachusetts.

Recommended Reading:

Why the Little Things Mean Everything in Relationships (and 25 BIG Little Things You Can Do for Your Significant Other)

How To Make All Your Relationships Work

The Top Five Things Couples Argue About

How to "Drop the Drama" and Master the Art of "Loving Simply" in Seven Easy Steps

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