One of the best argument stoppers is just saying, “You may be right.” It doesn’t mean that you agree with and think the other person is right, and it is even compatible with feeling you are pretty sure the other person is wrong about an issue, but it gives some space to de-escalate from a full-blown confrontation. This technique works on the day to day things we argue about, but is not strong enough for issues we feel we must take a firm stand on, whether that causes an argument or not.
I don’t know why being right about everything is seemingly even more important to some than being loved. It may come from a deep, unmet need for affirmation and respect, fueled by a fear of inadequacy, with no room for error. Or, maybe it is just a bad habit that has gone unchecked for many years.
Most of us value being accurate and being” right” about things, but for some this need gets in the way of getting along well with others. The need to always be right can cause a shutdown in communication or bring about the loss of another’s “voice.” Over-talking and hijacking conversations can be an aggressive move to control. And, it doesn’t work in the long run.
Learning how to talk effectively within a family is a skill. Sometimes in a session we actually practice how to communicate thoughts and feelings without offense. The new language of non-inflammatory dialogue and respect seems so unfamiliar to some arguing couples that they begin to laugh when they hear themselves talking the foreign language of politeness. That ability to laugh is the beginning of a breakthrough in understanding how love and friendship can be eroded by arguing.
I love the story of the rabbi who was called on to mediate a bitter dispute between two men. He listened thoughtfully to the first man’s opinion and pronounced that he was right. Then he listened to the second man’s opinion and pronounced that he also was right. Later, the rabbi’s wife who had been listening to the whole thing said, “Both of them can’t be right!” The rabbi said, “And you are right as well.”
“You may be right” can be an important piece of vocabulary for more peaceful living.