Defusing an Argument
You don’t know where or when it will happen, but many of us partake in verbal arguments with other people. Back during my waitressing days, I remember an adversarial coworker who went out of her way to make other people angry just for the sake of an argument. I don’t know if she was frustrated with other aspects of her life and used coworkers to release that frustration, or if she hated each of us to the point that she wanted an individual and different confrontation each day. In any case, she started arguments on a regular basis and did so with neither apology nor excuse.
Because of her, I felt like I had to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for battle each day I worked. To say the least, this was not an inviting environment. I often felt the same way when I was married. In both of these situations, at work and home, my method for handling the confrontations was to speak my peace and then walk away. I’ve always felt that standing and arguing with somebody, both of you too heated to listen to the other person anyway, is senseless. And when both parties are screaming, you can’t hear each other well enough to even know if a valid point is being made. So, it’s always seemed to me that one of the best things to do is just walk away until the situation has cooled and defused.
This tactic, while it makes perfect sense in my mind, has never worked well for me. Each time I’ve tried to leave an argument, I’ve only served to make the other person even angrier. This is the last thing I’ve wanted, but there you have it.
It Never Fails
With my boyfriend now, despite past experience, I still walk away when we fight, as I did during one of our most passionate and recent arguments. He came down pretty hard on me, so I got up and left our home. As the screen door slammed behind me, I thought of what a relief it was to escape our mutual anger. I wanted nothing but to walk and clear my head. But instead of staying inside and thinking about things, he came after me and raised my frustration.
“You need to talk to me,” he said on the sidewalk, a twilight sky behind him, “rather than just run away when things get tough.”
I stopped walking and looked at him in surprise. I’d never thought of my actions as running away. I thought it was more level-headed to leave the situation rather than stay in place and let it pointlessly continue. He, on the other hand, made it very clear he wanted a resolution. “Let’s get this figured out.”
I saw at that moment it was fruitless to tell him you can’t get something figured out when anger is blocking your senses. So I cut my walk short and returned to the house with him, where we proceeded to fight in earnest. Even now, it bothers me to recall our sharp words and deliberate insults, all in an effort to “work it out”.
We eventually settled down, and now I don’t even remember what the argument was about. I can tell you this, though: The next time we fight, I will again walk away, and if he follows me, I’ll refuse to return with him. Fighting is a great way to release pent-up emotion, but it’s completely worthless when trying to settle differences. I won’t indulge him again.