It is impossible to be in a close relationship with someone and not have a difference of opinion from time to time. However there may be people in your life who absolutely must win an argument. For them it is a matter of life and death. They don’t care about your position. They don’t even want to hear it. (Outshouting you is a tactic that they may use). They can get extremely vicious and low. It isn’t important to them that they may be doing irreparable damage to the relationship. You come away exhausted, frustrated, victimized, and possibly homicidal. Sadly, you may not be able to completely get away from them, because you are related by blood or marriage, or they may be a work associate.
While you find these fights distressing and draining, they enjoy them. Why? Four reasons: First, they love the drama and intensity. It makes them feel alive. Second, it allows them to discharge some of their underlying anger that is always with them. The release of tension is similar to releasing steam from a pressure cooker. They relax. Third, they have your attention. It doesn’t matter to them that it is negative attention. They have your full focus, and that makes them happy. Four, when they “win” it is like an addict’s fix. They feel on top of the world.
You hate the disrespect and giving in for the sake of peace. Fighting back doesn’t work either. I am going to share with you tools that will help you maintain your sanity and your sense of worth. They are called nondefensive responses and come from the book Toxic Parents by Dr. Susan Forward. You will want to memorize them so they will be instantly available to you when you need them. Here they are:
- Oh, I see
- That’s interesting.
- You’re certainly entitled to your opinion. (my favorite)
- I’m sorry you don’t approve.
- Let me think about that.
- Why don’t we talk about this when you’re not so upset.
- I’m sorry you’re hurt (upset, disappointed).
Saying one of these statements one time isn’t going to be enough. They will keep pressing for complete domination or to get a reaction out of you. Just calmly repeat these responses. You can say the same one over and over or mix them up. Nondefensive responses keep the argument from escalating.
I suggest that you copy this article to your computer so that you will have it handy for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This could be your first visit in years where dinner with the relatives doesn’t cause your blood pressure to blow sky high.