“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Victor Borge
It is often said that humor is all about timing. For arguing couples — or anyone who that finds themselves in a tense moment —finding and using the right moment to ease that tension just may prevent an argument from spiraling out of control.
Conflict is inevitable, as are disagreements. But is it possible to have differing viewpoints without getting nasty? Here are some phrases and tactics that might be useful to you when tempers flare.
Choose a phrase
Pick a fun line from a movie or comedian that carries the same emotional overtone for both of you. It is a nice way to signal a time out.
I’m sorry I got in a fight at your Black Panther party
This line is from the movie “Forest Gump” after Forest beat Jenny’s boyfriend to a pulp. They were at a Black Panther gathering and as Forest was leaving he apologized to his hosts. This phrase is a fun way to say, “I acted inappropriately,” or “we are both being silly about this,” without ever having to admit you are wrong. It is still important to admit when you are wrong, but a funny phrase can ease tension and then lead to rational discussion. You can then proceed, or you can mutually agree to table the topic.
Provide an outlandish explanation
Do you know what happened? I got back to the office and realized that some imposter had hijacked my phone! I hope they didn’t make any scandalous phone calls on it!
This is saying that you weren’t really feeling like yourself at your last conversation. It might have been due to stress, fatigue, or full-blown stupidity. This is an easier way to apologize as long as you and your spouse or “argument partner” have mutually agreed that it can be counted as one.
Fight naked. Only to be used in appropriate circumstances
There is probably not much else that needs to be said about this strategy.
Try a shrug
One person calls it and no matter what kind of mood you are in, both of you have to comply. Simply raise your shoulders in a huge, exaggerated shrug, often ending with a huge sigh at its completion. It’s a cleansing motion that clears the air, any tension, and softens any mood. Try it and see what happens.
Laugh at yourself or be self-deprecating
“You know, if I wasn’t so out of shape I would be able to catch up with my runaway mouth!” An easy way to stop an argument is by making fun of yourself. Your partner is very unlikely to begin anotherargument disagreeing with you.
There’s nothing like acting like you are four years old to shake things up a bit. Try an old standby, "I'm rubber, you're glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you." Or a variation on a theme, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never build a proper piggy house.” If nothing else, your partner will at least briefly pause to stare at you open-mouthed.
When your partner goofs up, turn it into a joke
“It was my fault. It was my head that hit your elbow,” or “I’m glad you left the toilet seat up. The jolt of the cold water is much more effective than the electric shock my therapist ordered.”
Laughter is often the best medicine and can be a quick remedy for many arguments. Take off the boxing gloves and try tickling the funny bone. As Mark Twain said, “There is only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”
Ramona Siddoway writes from Houston, Texas. An avid traveler she has published articles in Angola, Brussels, and the UK as well as the United States. Besides contributing to FamilyShare she writes for Young Adults and Middle Grade. Ramona is married with four children, a dog that is paranoid about the outdoor sprinkler system and an Angolan cat that is incredibly snarky when she is cold.