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You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em

In the midst of a disagreement, it can be difficult to back down.  However backing down can be the smarter option but how do you know when and how to back down?

First, understand that your ego doesn’t want you to back down.  Humans naturally want to win (probably from when losing a fight meant losing your life).  So put your ego away and look at things rationally.  Would backing down be the right decision?  Would continuing the argument cause irreparable damage to the relationship?  Would it allow you to end an argument without hurt feelings and come back later with a different approach?

Second, breathe.  In the middle of an argument there is a lot flying around in your brain – you’re trying to both process information and express yourself at the same time (and we’ve already established that you can do one or the other but not both at once).  Your anger is welling up and you’re fighting not only with your partner but with yourself to maintain your composure.  Try to calm the chaos in your brain.  If necessary, ask for a moment and step away.

Lastly, resume the discussion with calmer words.  Quiet your voice.  Measure your tone.  Meter your speech.  Agree to disagree.  Don’t be surprised if there is some initial resistance/confusion on the part of your partner – they’re still in fight-or-flight .  Do not get sucked back into the maelstrom.  Maintain your course and even change the topic of conversation to something light, if necessary.  A strategic retreat can allow you time to re-assess your approach and to build your defense (after all, you already know their argument).

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