Electronic Arguing

In the last couple of years, some counsellors and therapists have noticed an increase in the number of clients who argue by text and email. This is an activity that definitely occurs amongst younger clients, but the over-50’s are also not immune. With the modern-day trend of communicating most things electronically, it is in some ways understandable that this would include arguing; but this, perhaps, is one trend that is not desirable. Sometimes it is important to communicate face-to-face. For example, which has more meaning - being told you are loved by text or in person?

Couples argue. It is unusual when they don’t. The key is that both are keen to find solutions and are happy to work out differences. And there are lots of ways to do so - but if you can’t read how the other person is really reacting then it is more difficult to change how you react.

Sending messages through printed word is powerful, but also unretrievable, especially if it is done through instant messaging in the heat of the moment. How often have we been warned to read an email, and then re-read it, before pushing the send button? Unfortunately, with tempers raised we are more likely not to care. We think we have put down what we really feel and that the other person should really know what we are thinking; but once that ‘send’ button is pushed, any chance of moderating what we have said - because we have suddenly realised how hurtful our comments are - will be lost.

We may feel passionately about something, but that doesn’t take away the right of the other person to feel passionately in a diametrically opposite way to us. What couples, or even just friends, need to do is to figure out the best way forward for them both. This may, perhaps, be one agreeing that the other’s suggestion is better, or finding an alternative solution.

The key to a good argument is being in the same space as the other person. This way we can gauge, from watching them, how they are reacting and feeling. Electronic arguing takes that away; it makes the points raised more black and white. There is less room for manoeuvre. In some ways, it is also less painful as it takes the argument almost through a third person. We become less involved. The problem is, for successful arguments we have to be involved. We have to be there to take the other person’s perspective into account. For a happy relationship, with its share of arguments, throw away the mobile phone and turn off the computer. Do it the old fashion way - face-to-face. It may hurt more; it may bring you into the real world of feelings; but it is so good when you sort things out.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Canary Wharf, E14 4AS

Written by Owen Redahan. MBACP. B.Sc.(Agr)

Canary Wharf, E14 4AS

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