We have talked about ways to prevent arguments in long distance relationships. But a fight is like fire – it can simply start under the right circumstances, no matter the prophylactic measures. And like fire it catches on, becomes tricky to handle and might burn you in the end. Yet that’s where the similarities end, so the two should be handled differently. How then, you ask? Well, I have you covered. Today I present you the “Ways to stop/solve an argument in a long distance relationship”.
The standard approach for stopping arguments looks like this. You take a time out – talk things out, find the real issue and resolve the conflict. In psychology and management theories they have something similar called the “4 C’s”: contact, communication, cooperation, and conciliation. You can find a perfect example of this method in Richard Bach’s book “Bridge across Forever”. There a couple named Leslie and Richard have a fight in their trailer. Before things spiral out of control, Richard asks for a time-out. He lays on the ground enters a sort of meditative state, where he envisions his future. In his dream Leslie, all disappointed, packs her things, leaves him alone and the next morning Richard crashes his plane in a pilot competition with him inside. This vision leads Richard to having an epiphany and he for the first time tells Leslie that he loves her. Of course the actual book sounds much better than this summary 🙂 it is definitely worth reading, so why not check it out?
This method is actually doable in real life long distance arguments, however it takes a lot of practice. Even then… it is exhausting because it involves a lot self-control. I am speaking from personal experience. Oh, and there is a catch. Some people just hate the time-out part. A pause, can inflate the anger in them. You might be tempted to leave your video call for a few minutes to let the air cool down. In those instances remember when they say: “don’t you dare walk away” they literally mean it. So… what’s the answer?
Treat an LDR argument like a political debate
Bear with me for little while and this will make sense. Think of that time when you argued with Uncle Bernie how a tax cut would improve the economy. You made all these crushing points. Yet it somehow did not come through to him. The same way showing your intellectual supremacy in your last LDR argument did not really get you anywhere. It most probably only strengthened the belief that they were right in the first place? You (most probably) were right, but the cognitive biases in your opponents’ heads prevented them from seeing it.
Facts, forget them
There are two elements that play here. Firstly, if a discussion becomes heated, rational thinking disappears. Intense emotions make adrenalin rush to your veins. You become pumped up and tense and ready for battle. To your body it makes little difference whether this is an intellectual or an actual fight. It wants to win at any cost. This is how tongue slips happen and you hurt your LDR partner.
Secondly, lots of “unshakable” beliefs are based on intuition. This means that the person first gets an idea and then finds some arguments to justify it. Funny thing is, that they choose to ignore the facts that do not support their views, so no matter what you say, it won’t stick (confirmation bias).
The weak point, however, lies in what Yale psychologist call “the illusion of explanatory depth”. When you let people explain their position, they may themselves find the limitations. This way their once firm belief crumbles. The difference to the typical approach is, that you do not pit point where their shortcomings are. If they discover them themselves, they will be much more receptive. Yet some people are smart, or not – depending on the perspective. They do find some legit arguments. In long distance relationships they have plenty of time to think if a problem drags on. In that case say something like: ‘’I get what you say, so how should it work?” This is the principle from before, but taken a bit further. Ask them how they imagine this new adjustment should work in your everyday life. Don’t hesitate to tell them if you find some details inconvenient.
Don’t crush them
The real reason why you should not attempt to make crushing points is not that it does not work, which it does not, but that you love the person. So be nice. Actually, our mood affects how to treat new information. If you’re happy – then you become open minded. However, back someone into a corner and their original belief only hardens. The typical reaction in this case is: “he/she doesn’t get me”. This phenomenon is amplified in groups. So we are kinda lucky that long distance arguments are usually intimate in nature 🙂
Moral foundation theory
You may have heard about this in a different name. There are 5 basic moral foundations: care/harm, loyalty, sanctity, fairness and authority (rules). Every person values each of them to a different extend. You should instantly be able to tell which of them apply to your LDR lover. We long distance folks usually have extremely good communication 🙂 In essence, you present the issue from their perspective. For instance with words like: “this is sacred to me”, or “that is against the rules”. Research shows that this will make them more open to what you say. Just use their language and it will resonate within them.
Now, you may be asking how is this different from the time out – talk things out approach? Well if you slightly direct the argument, then it will be easier not to get caught in the emotional turmoil. Which, let’s admit, helps keeping the conversation productive.
Anyways, no one likes fighting. Wouldn’t you say? If the answer is “Yes”, then you can check out: