STOP ANY ARGUMENT in 3 Simple Steps

2004 Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.


Do you need to stop arguments? These three steps will turn almost any argument into a productive discussion in less than five minutes.

  1. Go to the bathroom. When you are in the throes of an argument or difficult discussion, just say, "I really want to have this conversation, but first, please excuse me I must go to the bathroom." Interrupting the argument will give each of you a chance to cool down and collect your thoughts.

  2. If you are on the telephone, say "Excuse me for a moment, I have to handle a call on the other line." If you are on a cell phone, break the connection in the middle of one of your own sentences. Call back a few minutes later and apologize for being cut off.

  3. Use your break time to think. Decide what you really want to accomplish by turning the argument into a discussion. Get very clear about your own objectives. Return to the conversation, summarize the argument so far, and then ask politely what the other person wants the outcome of the conversation to be.

These steps work because they give each of you a chance to think instead of react to what has been happening. And neither of you needs to lose face or look weak or act disrespectfully. When you think about your objectives, you may realize that they have very little to do with what you've been saying. Often people argue without really knowing what they want from each other.

When you approach any conversation with your goal in mind, you are far more likely to achieve it than you are in the heat of an argument. When you ask others their goals, they too must think about what they want to accomplish.


Once you learn what your someone else really wants, you may find it very easy to acknowledge that and work together cooperatively to achieve both of your goals. Depending upon the situation, you may choose to share your own goal directly, or merely weave it into the conversation.

When you create a productive discussion, you create mutual respect and the opportunity for excellent future relationships.

Laurie Weiss, Ph.D., is an internationally known executive coach, psychotherapist, and author. For more Secrets for Turning Difficult Conversations into Amazing Opportunities for Cooperation and Success email

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