Arguments happen between people every day, but sometimes what happens next can be even more damaging than the argument itself.
After fighting with someone, there may be lingering resentment, tense silence, or awkwardness. It can be difficult to figure out what to say and do next. Finding a way to communicate effectively can be difficult in the heat of the moment, but it’s possible to move past arguments and help heal hurt feelings with a conversation.
Here’s how you can rebuild trust and gain common ground after an argument.
First, cool off
Don’t pretend like the argument never happened and expect things to just go back to normal. It’s important to take time to cool off before having a conversation—you don’t want to end up in another disagreement because tension is still high. Tell the person you argued with that you need some space, but will want to talk again calmly after you’ve both had some time to process the argument.
Give a heartfelt apology
What you say isn’t always as important as how you say it, so speak from the heart. Say or do what will be most meaningful to who you argued with.
After an argument, a simple “I’m sorry” can go a long way and open up the door to more conversation. Remember that apologizing doesn’t mean you’re accepting defeat or that the other person was necessarily “right.”
Did you react instead of listening during the initial argument? Take responsibility for your role in it. Even when it’s hard, acknowledge if you raised your voice, escalated the argument, said something unkind, or otherwise caused the argument to intensify.
Talk about how you both feel
To not harbor resentment, you and the person you argued with should say what you need to say. Share how you feel and encourage them to do the same.
Maybe the person you argued with thinks they overreacted and is ready to move on. Or, maybe there was a deeper, unresolved issue. Either way, give them the chance to share what they want you to know. Acknowledge how you might have made the other person feel. It’s important that they feel seen, even if you don’t understand their viewpoint firsthand.
Solve the problem or agree to disagree
An apology without acknowledgment of the cause of the argument may fall flat and cause there to be unresolved tension. Ask what you can do differently in the future to help avoid this kind of argument. If the disagreement came from a difference of opinion, you can hear the other person out or agree to disagree.
What you do after an argument is just as important as what you say during it. If during your discussion you vowed to be more compassionate, focus on responding calmly, or some other healthy change, follow through in the future.
If problems persist and arguments become too big to handle alone, we’re here for you at Valley Oaks Health. Reach out to see if couples therapy may help you and your partner.