7 Tactics To Stop Arguments From Becoming Full-Blown Fights

We've all been in an argument at some point in our lives. Sometimes it's between a husband and wife, a child and parent, a pair of best friends, a customer and cashier, or a pair of roommates. Perhaps you said some hurtful things that you didn't mean during a heated quarrel, or maybe it was the other person who hit below the belt. An argument might start out as a mild disagreement, but it can easily and quickly become a terrible fight — if you let it.


Although you might find yourself in a disagreement with someone who can become enraged at even the smallest inconveniences, there are still actions you can take to prevent the dispute from escalating — the argument doesn't have to turn into a full-blown fight. If you're in a relationship with someone, and your squabbles have a tendency to snowball out of control, know that you have the power to quench them.

Change your perspective

It's easy to argue with someone if you're only thinking of yourself and your feelings. For example, let's say a man just got home from a 16-hour workday, which happened to be his wife's day off. His wife just finished mopping the floor, only for her husband to track dirt all over it on his way in because he forgot to take his shoes off. She barks at him about the mess and how she just cleaned the floor, completely disregarding how exhausted he must have been after such a long day. She justifies her vexation because all she can think of is that floor. He eventually matches her indignation, and a giant shouting match ensues.


According to Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Robyn Ashbaugh in Solid Foundations Therapy, "Taking the time to try to see your partner's perspective not only makes an argument or disagreement go more smoothly, but it shows that you respect and care about them."

While getting upset about someone dirtying the floor you just cleaned is understandable, if the wife had seen the incident from her husband's perspective, the conflict could have been avoided. So if you find yourself upset with someone for something they did, try to see things from their perspective. It could reduce your anger and avert a careless fight. 

Take a deep breath and count to 10

Arguments can be like a game of ping pong. Person A says something in anger, which provokes Person B to immediately retaliate, which then causes Person A to reflexively dish out something even worse. Tit for tat for tit for tat. Just rapid-fire words, with no breaks in between. That's why it can help to take a breath and pause before speaking again when you find yourself in a dispute.


If you make the conscious effort to pause, take a deep breath, and silently count to 10, it can prevent you from saying the next hurtful or provocative thing. Plus, it can give you the opportunity to reevaluate the entire altercation and ask yourself if it's even worth having. It can also give the other person a brief moment to calm down. If 10 seconds doesn't feel like long enough to make a difference, make it 30 or 60 — however long it takes. 

After you pause, you might be in a better place to end the argument entirely or at least prevent it from turning into a shouting match.

Use the Take Two technique

Alicia Munoz, a certified couples therapist, recommends the "Take Two" technique in her MindBodyGreen article to prevent arguments from escalating. It's a technique that needs to first be discussed ahead of time, though, so it will only work with someone you're very close with, like a romantic partner, best friend, or maybe a roommate. Another caveat to the technique is that you have to both agree to use it for it to be effective. It's best to discuss and agree to it when you're both in a good mood.


The technique involves stopping in the middle of an argument and requesting that you rewind the discussion to the point that it became a quarrel. You treat the previous exchange the same way a director would treat a movie blooper, and you redo it. If you said a certain word that set the other person off, use a different word in your "Take Two." Or, if you started to raise your voice to a shouting level in the first take, use a quieter voice in the second take. This could lead to a much more fruitful, calmer conversation.

Leave a few things left unsaid

We've all been there. You're upset. You want to plead your case. And defend yourself. Or fire back. You say to yourself, "I can't believe they said that!" Or perhaps you're usually the one in the offensive position, with a tendency to instigate or worsen a quarrel. Married people and others with equally close relationships usually know all the buttons to push to set their partner or friend off. They know their weaknesses. They know what they don't want to hear, but some people will say those very things to their partner anyway as a means of retaliation.


From the "Book of Proverbs" to philosopher quotes, there are dozens of reminders about the importance of holding the tongue, and how damaging words can be. So instead of voicing every unpleasant thought you have when in the middle of an argument, choose not to. In leaving a few things left unsaid, you could gain control of the scuffle and turn it into a respectful discussion instead.

Always maintain respect

What is it about anger that causes so many of us to lose control of our words and actions? We lash out. We yell. We say things we don't mean. We hurt the people we love the most. And if we empower our wrath, it can cause us to become flat-out disrespectful. Nobody wants to feel mistreated during a brawl, or at any other time. Disrespect can easily provoke someone to anger, adding fuel to a flame that can create something akin to a destructive wildfire.


That's why it's so important to always stay respectful toward the person you're arguing with, or to at least attempt to. It's okay to be angry and express your feelings about something that upsets you. It's okay to share your hopes, expectations, and solution suggestions. What's not okay is resorting to name-calling, belligerent shouting, or belittling or threatening remarks. This type of behavior does nothing more than elicit a negative reaction from the other person. 

Disrespectful actions could even have long-term effects and form a wedge between you and the other person, explains Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Jennifer Miller of Oceanside Private Practice, LLC. She calls disrespect between romantic partners "the relationship killer" and says that it "comes with a wide range of very detrimental consequences in your relationship. It kills the passion, romance, and love you once enjoyed together."


Know when to walk away ... and when not to

When an argument goes from bad to worse, sometimes the best thing to do is walk away, but sometimes, it can make matters worse, so it's important to know the difference. For example, if the person you're arguing with is passionately trying to get their point across, but is remaining respectful, try to let them finish their thought. Don't walk away in the middle of their sentence. Tell them you'd like to table the conversation and make it clear that you'd like to leave the room. Then, hopefully, you'll have a more productive, less-argumentative discussion later, when you're both calmer.


On the other hand, if the person becomes violent or abusive during the tiff, forcing you to seek an escape, warn them that if their behavior continues, you'll need to walk away. If you ever feel unsafe, leave the room or house if you need to and seek help.

Another good time to walk away would be if the other person decides they want to end the discussion and pick it up after you've both cooled down. While it may be tempting to continue spilling your guts while you're on a roll, the temporary moment of satisfaction probably won't be worth the exchange of hurtful words that follow. If the other person wants to walk away, let them. Don't demand that the fight continue while you're still infuriated, and don't chase them after they walk away.


If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Acknowledge your faults, and apologize for them

We all make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes can hurt others. When you think about it, it's actually pretty easy to make a mistake, but acknowledging and apologizing for the mistakes? That's a bit more challenging for many people. Refusing to own your faults, or worse, shifting the blame to someone else, can be detrimental to any relationship.


For example, let's say your roommate was the last to leave the house on a windy morning. She failed to deadbolt and securely close the front door on her way out. The door blew open, and your beloved cat escaped and was hit by a car. You, of course, were very emotional about the ordeal, but imagine if your friend never apologized or even acknowledged her error. Imagine if she tried to blame you by saying you should have kept your cat in a closed bedroom. A very heated argument likely would be inevitable.

Although apologies don't undo mistakes, they show the other person that you care about their feelings and that you don't want conflict. Sometimes simply hearing someone say "I'm sorry" is enough to keep angry emotions at bay. On the other hand, refusing to apologize when you've wronged someone "undermines confidence in their relationship with you," says Psychologist Molly Howes in Psychology Today. Relationship expert Dr. Harriet Lerner tells Forbes that a "good apology is deeply healing while an absent or bad one can compromise and even end a relationship."