Three tips to cultivate healthy arguments

Be it minor squabbles or full-blown political debates, here's what you can do when an argument gets too heated.

Lance Wu

Published: 7 July 2020, 12:08 PM

With the election season in full swing, some of us have become embroiled in arguments and discussions over which political parties should be elected. Arguments on social media and in real life are unavoidable, and articulating our points of view to others is an uphill task.

However, arguments are not confined to political discourse. Squabbles can also arise from simple disagreements with friends or family, resulting in damaging and uncomfortable interactions.

Nonetheless, arguments can be leveraged upon to appreciate multiple perspectives and to empathise with others. Only then can healthy compromise and understanding be reached by both sides.

Here are three ways for you to cultivate healthy arguments.

1. Avoid dominating discussions

Refrain from assuming you are right. No one likes an arrogant know-it-all.

Avoid dominating and dismissing opposing views. Social experiments done by Princeton, NYU and Duke universities found that reinforced polarisation of opinions occurs if an individual is inundated with opposing viewpoints.

Dominating an argument may also intensify hostilities. Instead, individuals should offer space and respect to the other side.

For example, if tensions rise during arguments, avoid being overbearing and forcefully shoving emotionally charged personal views down your opponent’s throats.


Avoid interrupting the other party constantly during an argument. POSED PHOTO: ANGELA OUYANG

2. Listen actively

Listening, as much as speaking, is key to effective arguments. An active listener not only shows respect for others, but is able to synthesise the context and motivations of other people’s viewpoints.

One misconception many have is that staying silent and listening during an argument indicates weakness. On the contrary, active listening strengthens our ability to process a wider variety of perspectives.


Listening helps us to understand and give credit to opposing views. PHOTO CREDIT: MENTATDGT VIA PEXELS


Listening to opposing views is instrumental for healthy arguments. Listening exposes people to new perspectives and debunks pre-existing biases. Paraphrasing your opponent’s arguments will indicate an understanding of their perspective.

Lacking good listening skills restricts our ability to empathise with others, preventing any productive discourse.

3. Know when to walk away

On the surface, walking away seems cowardly. However, stepping back is necessary to avoid “flooding“, a psychological state of increased stress that depresses our logical thinking abilities.

Hallmarks of flooding include using abusive language, bringing up irrelevant opinions and (intentionally or unintentionally) causing emotional or physical hurt. Unhealthy arguments will thus ensue.

Nevertheless, exiting an argument prematurely could be considered rude. The best time to leave an argument is when there is a polite, mutual agreement to end or when arguments become verbally or physically abusive.

Unfortunately, arguing will unlikely change minds overnight. However, arguing healthily and productively is possible, and it is important to respect new opinions and be open to new perspectives.

You may like these