Arguments are something everyone deals with in life, whether they occur with loved ones, your children, your spouse, friends, and maybe even your boss.
According to the New York Post, in the spring of 2020, the USA’s divorce rate was up 34% over the previous year. The stress of being compacted and constricted, and trying to function in close quarters contributed to the divorce rate increase. People tend take out their stress on those closest to them, and 31% of couples said that the damage to their marriage was beyond repair.1
“There’s lots of advice out there on how to work together to resolve specific issues like how to spend money, how many kids to have, or how to address conflicts around families,” Jay Shetty explains. “Today, I want to take a different approach by looking at some of the deeper reasons we fight and how to resolve them.”
If you’re single or in a new relationship, you can build these tips into your relationship to increase your odds of long-term success and happiness. Shetty’s wisdom applies to family and friends as well. If you have ever argued, you can benefit from this advice.
You Are a Team
Starting a new relationship is a new exciting adventure, but that adventure doesn’t come with a map. You may enjoy the journey for a while, but eventually, there will be obstacles that frustrate you. This is normal, says Jay Shetty.
As your frustration grows, disagreements and spats happen. Ultimately, you face enough obstacles that you argue with your spouse on the best way to avoid more. You are both so convinced you have the solution that you try to sway the other person to your side. Neither knows if their answer will work, but it doesn’t matter because you have already taken a stance and are unwilling to change your mind.
There is no “I” in team, and you need to remember that you face the obstacle together. You are on the same side.
“We forget the minute we start arguing that we’re meant to be a team,” Shetty explains. “One of the things that happens in relationships when we meet obstacles is that when we fight, what we fight about is not what’s upsetting us. And that makes it harder for us to resolve the source of the fight.”
Identifying and understanding the deeper root of the argument takes some work, but you can do it.
Identifying the Root of the Problem
Friction and arguments do not have to be bad. Jay Shetty believes they can be a tool in a relationship to help get to the bottom of things that are bothering you and things you may not even realize are an issue. Learning how to identify the root of the problem effectively is key to resolving the issue.
There is never a time where you are operating as just one aspect of yourself. You are never just a parent, spouse, son, or daughter. When you interact with someone, you are interacting with every experience that person has had in life.
“We’re interacting with all of their ideas and beliefs about life and other people based on what their unique experiences are,” Shetty shares.
Perhaps you ask your spouse why they are so bad at loading the dishwasher and explain that if the dishes are loaded a different way, they will get cleaner. Instead of understanding your concern for cleaner dishes, your spouse hears how imperfect they are, that they are wrong in how they do it, or that they should be more like you. They may even think you may not love them anymore if they don’t do it your way.
What you are saying and what your spouse is hearing is vastly different.
Maybe a disorganized dishwasher makes you feel out of control or anxious. Having it organized was how you were taught growing up, and it represents something rooted deep inside you. You can communicate that to your spouse to help them understand why it is so important to you to have a certain way.
“Don’t just focus on what you’re saying,” Jay Shetty explains. “Think about what your partner is hearing.”
Once you get the hang of identifying the root of the argument, you will develop a meditation mindset … but what is a meditation mindset?
“A meditation mindset (in relationship conflict) is when you start to fight or see the argument coming, you use those signals to switch to a meditation mindset,” Jay Shetty explains. “This helps you slow down and identify what’s going on before you get off the races with a full-blown argument. The meditation mindset is almost like slow-mo mode. The pace of the argument does not sweep you up. You’re able to slow it down and think about it differently.”
Shetty says when you employ the meditation mindset, it helps switch out the “having to be proper mode” and into “team mode.”
“Instead of letting your emotions lead you, you want to read your emotions but be led by your mind when you have committed to steering towards curiosity,” Jay Shetty says. “When you are trained in the meditation mindset, you’re more likely to understand when issues arise as a couple rather than turn to accusations. If you consciously choose how you want to engage when you disagree, then train that behavior, that’s what will come out in an argument, and you will start to default to your meditation mindset.”
Connection Beyond Conflict
New relationships often start by cultivating mutual respect for the other person. You respect their differences and appreciate what they bring to the table. Those differences, however, can start to annoy you over time.
This is the reason you need to have a connection beyond the conflicts. When athletes engage in competition, there are rules everyone knows in advance. The same should apply to arguments. Creating a plan and rules about handling disagreements before they occur sets you up to have more meaningful, heartfelt conversations amid an argument.
What is the best way to create those rules?
Jay Shetty suggests that when you have your conversation, sit next to one another and not across from each other to help remind you that you are on the same side, facing the same challenge, and conquering it together. Meal time is a great time to have your conversation.
Buster Benson, the author of, Why are We Yelling? The Art of Productive Disagreement, says there’s something about eating together that disarms us2, and Jay Shetty agrees.
“Once you’re settled in together, you’re going to do something psychologists call priming, Jay Shetty explains. “You’ve probably heard the expression, ‘prime the pump’. It means to stimulate something you want more of. When you use a hand pump to pump water, you pump it a few times to get the water flowing. What we want more of in this case is positivity. We want to connect from a place of mutual interest and support. We want to connect from a place of love.”
To prime that space of love, you will answer the following questions and discuss them with your partner.
What does your partner do that complements you? What’s a skill or strength they have that is different from what you have that you appreciate about them. Explain why you understand that. How does it help or support you?
The answers to these questions serve as a reminder of the traits you appreciated about your loved one in the early stages of your relationship. We are not meant to be clones of one another. Your differences are strengths that you each bring to the team.
Guidelines and Boundaries
Creating guidelines and boundaries for arguments is essential to help get to the bottom of the “why” behind your disagreement.
“When you create safety within the argument, you can go to those vulnerable places together when you’re curious, and you’re focused on understanding rather than accusation,” Jay Shetty says.
An exercise that can help you set guidelines is to ask yourself, “What helps and what hurts?”, then share your answers with your partner. Take turns answering back and forth and continue sharing until you have covered everything.
According to Jay Shetty, the conversation might sound something like this:
“It will help me if you put down your phone when we talk. It hurts my feelings when I perceive that you don’t care about what I’m saying.” Or, “It helps me when you ask me questions instead of accusing me. It hurts my ability to listen to you when I feel like I have to defend myself.”
At the end of the statement, ask, “Can you do that?” Or “Does that sound reasonable to you?” Then the other person is going to repeat what their partner said in a way that shows they truly heard it.
For example, “I understand that when I’m on my phone while you’re talking to me, it feels like I’m not listening to you. If I’m in the middle of something important that I need to finish. I’ll ask you for a few minutes. When it’s time to talk, I’ll put away my phone and give you my full attention.”
“When you can diffuse emotions in this way and put boundaries around how you argue, you’ve created safety within the argument,” Jay Shetty explains.
Express gratitude to your partner every day. Gratitude is an effective tool in building a foundation in your relationship. Be specific in your gratitude. Tell them you love the meal they made or how they take care of the kids. Be sincere; don’t make something up just so you have something to say. When the moment is right, tell them! Be steady in your show of gratitude to your partner. Leave a note each day, or build it into your morning or bedtime routine. Find a time each day to express your gratitude.
Gratitude is a reset button in a relationship. It helps to remind one another what we are grateful for about that person.
“It helps us argue in a more loving and productive way. Secretly and securely, we know that there’s deep love,” says Jay Shetty.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “The 4 Biggest Arguments Couples Have” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay Shetty’s website at jayshetty.me.