Arguments: Is being “right” really worth it?

Arguments in relationships. We all have them, but what is the best way to actually win in an argument?

Well it turns out, the desire to be “right” in a disagreement may actually not be as gratifying as it would seem. What if your desire of being “right” is actually harming your relationship? You may be winning this argument, but you are ultimately harming your relationship.

Let’s explore what happens when arguments in relationships turn into a battle over wins and losses, instead of a productive discussion.

Conflicts often escalate in a relationship when the couple’s main goal somehow shifts from the topic at hand to being “right”. Insisting that the other individual agrees with them, or wants them to change their behaviour in some way becomes the goal instead of listening and cooperation.

If you are reading this and concerned that you are fighting to win, don’t worry. It is human nature to think you are right! A theory called dissonance bias explains this human behavior. Dissonance bias states that we naturally look for evidence that validates what we already believe, which in turn makes us stronger in our convictions. For example, if you are frustrated with your spouse for not doing the dishes, you will remember all the times they leave a dish out, but not notice the times they actually do the dishes, therefore, reinforcing your belief that they never do the dishes.

Relationship problems arise when the refusal to let go of “being right” actually begins to hinder your communication with your partner. Not listening and not compromising can feed into contemptuous feelings and interactions, defensiveness and criticism – all traits that can lead a happy couple down a destructive path. Your partner’s side of the conflict may be dismissed and ignored because you want to be “right” instead of listening.

Research shows that conflict can actually bring two parties closer together as long as the conflict is constructive. What are the traits of constructive conflict you might ask?

Here are some traits of constructive conflicts:

  1. Cooperative in Nature – Both parties are able to speak and be heard in a respectful way.
  2. Relationship Preserving – The goal is to solve an issue or work towards a goal as a means to better the relationship as opposed to threatening to end the relationship over a conflict.
  3. Attempts to See the Other’s Perspective – Both parties are able to see the conflict from one another’s perspective.
  4. Accommodating – Both individuals are able to see ways to improve in their own behaviour and are willing to make changes or adjustments to better the relationship.
  5. Future Oriented – Conflict is usually about the present and planning for future changes as opposed to bringing up past mistakes, failures, or arguments.
  6. Self Awareness – By nature, conflicts will bring up strong emotions (anger, frustration, sadness). Being able to recognise strong feelings in the middle of a conflict help you think logically and clearly. Using phrases like “It made me angry when you…” or “It hurt my feelings when …” show that a couple is able to recognise their emotions, and discuss them in a productive way.

Conflicts and arguments are inevitable in every relationship. They can be viewed as a tool to bring two individuals closer together, or they can become never ending battles of who is right and who is wrong.

So next time you find yourself fighting to be “right” or “win” in an argument, take a moment to stop and think if winning this battle is really worth it, maybe cooperation and compromise is the real winner of this battle.

If you and your partner are struggling to have constructive conflicts, a psychologist can teach you effective communication tips. If you would like to book in a time to speak to a psychologist call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online).

Related reading:

About Relationship and Marriage Counseling
Top Reasons for Divorce: How to prevent it from happening to you
5 Things to Look for when Considering a Long Term Relationship

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