How to Keep the Peace in an Argument Between Friends or Family

Not quite what
I meant

So, I’ve come to discover that at times I wind up needing to play the “Middle Man”. In one respect, it has potential to get very frustrating. After all, who likes being caught up in other people’s problems, having to play the peacemaker while simultaneously absorbing the brunt end of each side’s aggressions?

And yet, at the same time, it can be a humbling and learning experience. You have the opportunity at that time to observe the frustrations and complaints of each side, and learn more about each individual person by taking note of the situation as a whole and what each side is bothered by/what their focus is on. Sometimes, this can give you a quite a bit more insight into what the other person is thinking, and what kinds of things are most important to that person.
Of course, you can pick up similar information from a person by being in an argument with them, but if you are acting only as a peacemaker, you may get a better idea of how they really feel. If someone is mad at you, they may be speaking to you with aggression and anger, or wondering if they can really trust you, or feel like if they open up to you they’ll only be hurt again (depending on the situation, of course). But if you are a middle-man, and you have the ability to simply listen, you can find out a great deal. Obviously, if you were put in that situation to begin with, they feel they can trust you and open up to you at least on some level. But it is for that very reason, that they are going to continue opening up more to you than if they were mad at you.

As the middle-man or peacemaker, you are viewed as very non-intimidating. Each person is generally just upset and wants to vent, and wants someone to listen and understand. The problem of course, is when one person asks or implies that you should take sides. It is at that point that problems can start and a barrier can be created between you and one or both parties. To play the peacemaker, regardless of how you feel or think about either person’s argument, you have to remain objective and focus on listening and understanding, rather than trying to convince one side or the other of anything. Your purpose is to help them, and understand them, and possibly help each side to understand the “opposition’s” argument – all for the sake of keeping the peace.

Playing the peacemaker for any sort of relationship (be it friend, family, or otherwise) can be extremely taxing on the individual stuck in the middle. But if you remain calm, firmly advise the other parties involved that you will not take sides, and simply listen, you will gain much information. In turn, use that information to gain an understanding. Learn from mistakes that other people have made, or even are presently making. Maybe no one is making a mistake, but you can always learn more by paying attention. Perhaps person A feels hurt that the person B doesn’t communicate with them more often, they feel like person B is getting tired of them. Without you mentioning anything about person A’s feelings, a talk with person B makes you realize that they feel attacked every time they try to talk to person A. Person B doesn’t feel like person A listens to them well.

As the peacemaker, both sides are complaining to you instead of hashing it out with each other. But this can work to your benefit. By listening intently to both sides and thinking about the real problems at hand between A and B, you can offer excellent advice to both parties as well as take away a wealth of knowledge for yourself. In this example, you could ask A how they might try to talk to B? What types of things do they say? How does A approach B? Take the answers they give you and suggest how they might get B to open up more if they approach B more calmly. Then you can advise B that perhaps A is wound up because they feel nervous from lack of communication. Perhaps if B first communicates to A that they want to be listened to and would like to finish before any response, A may realize where he or she needs to change actions within the relationship.

Then, you take the information you’ve learned from both sides and apply it to your own life. Is there a way you frequently communicate that may cause others to feel attacked? Could you benefit from opening your own lines of communication more with your significant other? What sorts of complains do the other parties have, that maybe you could reflect on and avoid in your own relationship?

There is always an opportunity to learn from every situation, even if it isn’t happening to you. Next time you are getting stuck in the middle, playing the peacemaker, think about what you can take away from it. How can you benefit from serving as the middle-man for two complaining parties? It is frustrating at the time, but you have a great potential to help two people as well as gain some wisdom yourself.


Posted on June 9, 2008, in Life, Love, Relationships and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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