How to Deal with Argumentative Partners

Do you know someone who almost reflexively disagrees with you about EVERYTHING?

You tell them the sky is blue, and they come back with something like, “Actually, it’s more aquamarine.” When called on their exhaustingly oppositional attitude, they insist that they are critical thinkers, unwilling to accept anyone’s truth but their own.

There’s critical thinking, then there’s being disagreeable for the sport of it. Here’s how to deal with an argumentative partner who just has to take the opposite view to yours, no matter what.

4 Ways to Handle an Argumentative Partner

1. Try Not to Poke the Bear

If you’re someone who hates conflict and longs to keep the peace, take comfort in the fact that most argumentative people have triggers. Some are insecure and can’t stand having their opinions questioned publicly. Some are frightened and controlling and can’t handle being challenged. Almost all have short fuses and tend to argue at the slightest perceived provocation.

If you know that something you’re about to say has the potential to set them off, take a step back and think of new ways to approach the situation. Ambiguity has fueled many an argument, so be clear in your communication, leaving little room for interpretation.

2. Take a Breath before Answering

Argumentative people gain momentum by getting others just as worked up as they are. Taking a deep breath is an effective way to achieve that little bit of distance required to think things through. Remain calm and rational, even if you’re feeling under attack. Express your feelings using “I statements” as this will help to diffuse the blame cycle that so many arguments run on.

In time, the argumentative partner should lose interest. It’s not nearly as satisfying to argue with someone who won’t fight back with the same fiery intensity.

3. Concede to Their Arguments when Appropriate

“You might be right” and “I see your point” can be all it takes to power down an argumentative person. If their oppositional mindset formed because they never felt heard or respected as a child, acknowledging them in this way can be super effective. The key is honesty. Don’t agree with them if you don’t mean it as this will make you sound condescending, and it will put their back up even more.

Try to keep an open mind and agree when you feel it’s called for.

Read: Are You Open to Partners with Different Politics and Philosophies?

4. Keep Emotional Distance

If you take everything an argumentative partner says personally, you’ll feel like a piece of shit in no time. Recognize that people with this personality trait will find a reason to disagree with you on anything and everything. It’s not about you so much as it is about childhood needs that were never met, neural wiring that makes them oppositional, or both.

Sure, it would be nice to get along and to share an appreciation for something, but that probably won’t happen. It’s best to stay in your happy place internally and just keep on keeping on.

Read: Build a Stronger Relationship through Conflict

Do you have an argumentative partner or person in your life? How do you deal?

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