How to Keep Your Cool In An Argument

3 min
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Disagreements are inevitable. At some point, they’re going to crop up with friends, with family members, or with strangers on the internet – because we all have vastly different perspectives and viewpoints. And that’s a good thing! 

Diversity of thought is necessary for the advancement of humanity, and the way it often challenges our own viewpoints is healthy for personal (not to mention professional) development. But sometimes, other people’s opinions just seem wrong or downright offensive, and it can be difficult to remain level-headed and not become emotionally reactive when an argumentative situation arises from the conflict. 

How should we handle arguments with people on the polar opposite side of an issue? How can we remain respectful when we feel personally attacked by someone else’s views? And what does it really mean to “win” an argument? 

1. Be Humble

None of us knows every single angle of any situation. You won’t know all the nuances of the background of the person you are arguing with. Approaching an argument with the sense that you don’t know everything but are seeking to deepen your understanding on a subject will generate a more open-minded, less defensive energy, which will more often than not be reciprocated. If you are seeking to change someone’s opinion, coming straight in with an attack will get you nowhere. At the very least, foster some curiosity about how they came to their opinion.

2. Listen Actively

Follow your curiosity along every strand of their argument. Ask questions, and ask them in a calm rather than an accusatory manner – how did they reach their conclusion? What are their sources? How long have they held this opinion? Active listening isn’t a skill we are often taught, but making someone feel heard and understood is a powerful way to soften their defenses and get them on your side. Create a heart-centered, judgment-free space in which everyone gets to speak and be listened to.

3. Examine Your Emotions

Are you feeling personally attacked? Develop some awareness of what emotional responses are coming up for you. If it’s anger, where is it sitting in your body? Is it sadness? Frustration? Remember that an emotional response is usually the result of a trigger. In this case, perhaps your self-worth feels like it’s being challenged, which is your own issue and not that of the person you are debating with. Perhaps you have been in situations where you were not listened to or understood, and this is resurfacing. Observe yourself and note anything you might want to journal about later, rather than bringing that energy into the debate.

4. Be Compassionate

An open mind needs an open heart. Consider the possibility that your opponent has suffered trauma that has closed theirs. They might have been conditioned by disingenuous media platforms or parents who were afraid, for instance. It’s likely that their opinion is formulated by fear. They may have been raised in a scarcity mindset. They may not have had the privilege you had with your education, your support system, or the unconditional love you might have received. Where could you find an ounce of compassion for what this person is afraid of? Losing their livelihood? Their autonomy? And remember: fears aren’t always rational.

5. Agree to Disagree

Walking away from a dead-end argument is a win for your mental health. Keep an eye on your energy levels and learn to call it quits before you feel drained. Healthy debate should be energizing, and it’s ok to say “I love you, I disagree with you, but I’m tired of talking about this right now. Let’s just respect each other’s right to our opinions, and stop this discussion here.”  

6. Build Resilience

When we accept that the world is not black and white or right and wrong, but instead comes with a million shades of nuance, we can move through it with more humility. Hateful opinions are built on fear, and we have to meet fear with love. Doing your own inner work will mean that you won’t feel threatened by someone else’s opinion. They can’t knock you down if your foundation of self-worth, self-respect, and self-love is solid. Then, in the face of any argument, you’ll be unflappable. And you might just even win someone over. 


All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals and other resources that influenced this article: The Relative Effectiveness of Active Listening in Initial Interactions; The Role of Empathy and Compassion in Conflict Resolution.

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