Why Do Arguments Occur?

Formal logic can provide an excellent lens to examine and clarify what you are trying to convey when arguing with other people. What is your conclusion? What are your premises? Is your argument valid? Simply being analytical and rational about the conversation at hand can do wonders at making your relationships better.

Yet, formal logic also has its limitations. The day-to-day arguments that most of us deal with are not abstract, but messy and emotional confrontational arguments. These types of arguments occur because there is a breakdown in the communication skills of one or more people in a conversation. Somewhere along the way the point or idea you were trying to convey got lost and the conversation became sidetracked, which lead to frustration between the people involved.

The important point to understand here is the concept of communication. Communication involves people trying to convey their thoughts and ideas to other people. Likewise, effective communication also involves people seeking to understand the thoughts and ideas of the other person. People are social creatures and we love communicating with each other – in most of us, the desire to communicate is just as essential to our wellbeing as the need to eat, drink and sleep.

However, conversation doesn’t always lead to communication. When people are conversing, but the underlying needs of communication are not met, frustration, irritation and other negative emotions occur, which usually directed to the other people in the conversation. This can inhibit communication in the future.

Essentially, the basis of most confrontational arguments is the way conversation and communication occur – it’s not what you are saying, but your how you are saying it. For example, a confrontational argument between a husband and wife might occur because one party involved is trying to convey a simple idea – the husband says: “we need to budget our income more effectively”. However, even though this is a simple idea, various barriers might prevent communication from occurring. The husband might have articulated the sentence poorly and mumbled the words rather than speaking properly. There might be background noise or the wife might be at such a distance that she simply doesn’t hear the full sentence.

Alternatively, perhaps the wife in this example is just distracted. She may be thinking about her work, or the kids, or all the responsibilities she might have. Regardless of the cause, there are many potential reasons why the wife might not pay adequate attention to the idea the husband is trying to communicate.


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