Stop Any Argument in Three Simple Steps

Ever found yourself in the middle of a heated debate with someone and wish you could turn it into something more productive? Here are three simple things you can do to stop any argument in its tracks.

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.

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.

2. 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.

3. 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 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.

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

Copyright 2004 Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.

Laurie Weiss, Ph.D., author of Dare To Say It!, is an internationally known executive coach, psychotherapist, and author. For more simple secrets for turning difficult conversations into amazing opportunities for cooperation and success, visit or email

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