What’s the difference between a discussion and an argument? You’re going to listen to a psychologist giving some tips to help people when they disagree with somebody about something. Listen once and tick the six things she says.

1   Think carefully what to say when you begin a discussion.

2   Try to ‘win’ the argument as quickly as you can.

3   Say sorry if something really is your fault.

4   Never avoid an argument by refusing to talk.

5   Don’t say things which aren’t completely true.

6   Don’t shout.

7   Don’t talk about things which aren’t relevant to the argument.

8   Use another person to mediate.

9   Postpone the argument until later when you have both calmed down.

10   It’s a bad thing for a couple to argue.


1 ✓   3 ✓   5 ✓   6 ✓   7 ✓   9


In life we sometimes have disagreements with people. It could be with your partner, with your boss, with your parents, or with a friend. When this happens, the important thing is to try not to let a calm discussion turn into a heated argument. But of course this is easier said than done.

The first thing I would say is that the way you begin the conversation is very important. Imagine you are a student and you share a flat with another student, who you think isn’t doing her share of the housework. If you say, ‘Look, you never do your share of the housework. What are we doing to do about it?’, the discussion will very soon turn into an argument. It’s much more constructive to say something like, ‘I think we’d better have another look about how we divide up the housework. Maybe there’s a better way of doing it.’

My second piece of advice is simple. If you’re the person who is in the wrong, just admit it! This is the easiest and best way to avoid an argument. Just apologize to your flatmate, your parents or your husband, and move on. The other person will have much more respect for you in the future if you do that. The next tip is don’t exaggerate. Try not to say things like ‘You always come home late when my mother comes to dinner’ when perhaps this has only happened twice, or ‘You never remember to buy the toothpaste.’ This will just make the other person think you’re being unreasonable, and will probably make him or her stop listening to your arguments.

Sometimes we just can’t avoid a discussion turning into an argument. But if you do start arguing with someone, it is important to keep things under control and there are ways to do this.

The most important thing is don’t raise your voice. Raising your voice will just make the other person lose their temper too. If you find yourself raising your voice, stop for a moment and take a deep breath. Say ‘I’m sorry I shouted, but this is very important to me’, and continue calmly. If you can talk calmly and quietly, you’ll find your partner will be more ready to think about what you are saying.

It is also very important to stick to the point. Try to keep to the topic you are talking about. Don’t bring up old arguments, or try to bring in other issues.

Just concentrate on solving the one problem you are having, and leave the other things for another time. So, for example, if you’re arguing about the housework, don’t start talking about mobile phone bills as well. And my final tip is that if necessary call ‘Time out’, like in a sports match. If you think that an argument is getting out of control, when you can say to the other person, ‘Listen, I’d rather talk about this tomorrow when we’ve both calmed down’. You can then continue the discussion the next day when perhaps both of you are feeling less tense and angry. That was there is much more chance that you will be able to reach an agreement. You’ll also probably find that the problem is much easier to solve when you’ve both had a good night’s sleep. Well, those are my tips.

But I want to say one last important thing. Some people think that arguing is always bad. This is not true. Conflict is a normal part of life, and dealing with conflict is an important part of any relationship, whether it’s three people sharing a flat, a married couple, or just two good friends. If you don’t learn to argue properly, when then a real problem comes along, you won’t be prepared to face it together. Think how to argue cleanly and fairly. It will help your relationship become stronger and last longer.

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