How to handle every argument like a grown-up

Like most adults, I have little patience for people who still act like they’re in middle school—gossiping and being cruel and nasty behind people’s backs instead of confronting issues head on and when they happen. We make excuses for it when we’re younger; we say we’re in middle school, and I guess it’s okay for middle schoolers to act like that. High schoolers, sure. College students… and then we’re in our twenties and people are still pulling the same moves instead of actually dealing. And it sucks.

Sometimes you really want to deal with the conflict but just feel like you can’t. No one wants to be the passive aggressive friend sending nasty letters filled with a year’s worth of angst, or the roommate who refuses to do the dishes because your supposed best friend didn’t invite you to last week’s thirsty Thursday outing. We want to handle things like adults. But how?

Deal with issues as they come

This first tip is probably the toughest, because, in the moment, it can be really difficult to come up with a response that encapsulates everything wrong with the situation. I’m not saying you have to respond ASAP when your friend sets you off – but I am saying that waiting six months before letting your friend know they hurt your feelings is probably not the best move. Instead of letting things simmer, take the time you need to put your thoughts together, and then let those thoughts out.

Stop expecting people to read your mind

If you don’t speak up, the problem isn’t going to be solved. You can’t blame your friends – or you S.O. – for not being mind readers. It simply isn’t fair to mope and lash out at people for not knowing that they did something that made you feel left out or touched on a sensitive topic that left you heated. Instead of coming to resent everyone around you, give them a chance to fix the issue.

Don’t gossip

Fights blow up when a million people get in the know who really have nothing to do with what’s up. There’s a huge different between venting and trying to rally the troops to get them on your side so that they have your back when it goes down. Recognize the difference between an argument between two people and one that you need to get other people involved in, such as a situation where you don’t feel 100% safe – always protect yourself. But if it’s just something silly, don’t go running around town telling everyone how so-and-so is just the worst. It’ll only come back to bite you, or leave you feeling guilty.

Recognize your own flaws

Self-awareness is a terribly difficult thing to come by, especially if you spend most of your time worrying about what other people are thinking. Instead of wasting time trying to figure out what caused someone else to do something, start paying attention to your own actions and the motives behind them. You may be totally angry that your S.O. commented on someone else’s picture, but you’re the one who started commenting on someone else’s photo to try and make your S.O. jealous. What does that say about you? Instead of expecting everyone to build a world in which you’ll be happier, realize the small (or big) ways that you may be negatively impacting other people.

Know that confrontation isn’t the end of the world

This can be tricky, because some people have had some nasty confrontations. But in healthy relationships, you have to be able to confront conflict head-on. You have the right to say, “This made me really hurt,” and to expect a thoughtful response instead of someone lashing out at you. On the flipside, your friends and loved ones have the right to calling you out without you going off on them. If you can stop seeing everything as an end-all-be-all battle, you may come to realize that an argument is just a disagreement – no need for the world to come to an end.

Learn the difference between a relationship worth salvaging and one worth giving up

One major cause of constant bickering is that neither party actually wants to be a part of the relationship. Whether we’re talking friendship, romantic relationship, or something in between, if you practically hate the other person you can’t be surprised when you spend all of your time in a stage of rage. Be fair to both of you and know when to back down – and when to give up.