Your Guide To Argument Styles And How They Can Influence Conflict In Your Relationships

As much as arguing is a natural part of relationships, romantic and otherwise, sometimes you can find yourself mid-argument with someone and you realize you're not getting anywhere. Disagreements can go off the rails pretty fast if the people involved don't argue the same way. It's when this point is reached that conflict resolution can seem like a long shot. The reason for this is simple: different argument styles. But that's the only part that's simple.

Similar to how people love differently (love languages) and form bonds with others (attachment styles), people have their own way of arguing too. Like most things in adulthood, our argument styles are the result of how we were raised, as well as our personality. Some people are naturally hot-headed and go in for the kill, while others manage to remain calm at all times and are open to resolution.

While you may not be able to decide what argument style your partner, friend, or family member might be bringing into the ring, if you're aware of your style, then you can have a better handle on how to navigate arguing with others. What's important to realize, however, is that argument styles aren't black and white, and how people react can differ from situation to situation or be based on one's mood (hangry, anyone?). But, for the most part, there are four overarching types that will help you understand not only your style but the style of those around you.


Someone who has an attacking argument style is going to shift the blame to anyone but themselves — especially if they're at fault. The whole approach is steeped in accusation and aggressive declarations of "you always do this" and "you never do that," the whole time emphasizing the "you" factor, never the "I." This style can leap into personal attacks meant to hurt as well.

But while this style can really get one's anger and frustration across, it doesn't do much for explaining what can be done to remedy the issues at hand and moving past the argument. The person doing the attacking is riled up and the one on the receiving end, unless their mode is also to attack, is absorbing it all as they try to figure out how they should respond to de-escalate what's happening. The attacking argument style doesn't do much to get to the heart of the matter. In fact, the one doing the attacking may even have lost track of the point of the argument because they let themselves become so overwhelmed with their outrage. It can make conflict resolution look like a distant dream.


If you're being attacked, it's easy to be on the defensive because honestly, what else can you do? You're being lambasted with accusations and maybe even insults, so naturally you want to protect yourself and your actions. But because defensive is basically the polar opposite of attacking it, too, can create an issue in regards to putting out a flaming argument.

"While defending yourself against an angry onslaught is a normal thing to want to do," psychotherapist Beverley Blackman told Refinery 29. "It is something that doesn't go very far towards solving the argument because these two styles are conflictual on a very closed, 'Yes-No' level, and leave little room for looking for resolution."

So although being defensive may come naturally to you when arguing, you may want to reassess how that's impacting your ability to help drive the argument to a close in a productive way while also giving you space to express yourself. Ultimately, that's the whole point of arguing: expression of feelings, then resolution. It's just a matter of being able to harness both for the sake of healthy disagreeing. 


Although withdrawing from an argument might seem like a good tactic, if you're up against an attacker, "stonewalling" as The Gottman Institute calls it, is not really going to get you anywhere. Withdrawal is just another term for conflict avoidance, which impacts relationships and rarely in a good way.

"A conflict-avoidant personality is a type of people-pleasing behavior where someone avoids conflict or disagreements at all costs and fears making others upset or angry," psychotherapist Babita Spinelli tells PsychCentral. "Individuals who are conflict-avoidant tend to expect there will be a negative reaction and avoid even interactions that are healthy conflicts."

Because we know that arguing is healthy and normal, as well as a way to express emotions, when you withdraw, you suppress which is profoundly unhealthy. According to 2018 study published in the International Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, when people keep what they're truly feeling under wraps, it negatively affects their mental and physical health. It exacerbates depression in those who already have it or causes depressive episodes in those who haven't been clinically diagnosed. This, of course, is in addition to the fact that resolving an argument is going to be a stretch. You can't solve anything when you check out of the scenario.


Of all the argument styles, open is the best to be. It's not that it's necessarily better than the others, but it is more productive. When paired with the other argument styles, those who are open are able to guide the arguing toward a resolution. They're also able to bring a sense of calm to the situation because of their ability to see all sides and be, well, open. If you manage to get two people whose argument style is open together, then you've hit the jackpot. 

With these two styles at the helm, it's less of an argument and more of a disagreement that, after points are made, feelings are disclosed, and everything is expressed, can conclude on a level where healthy compromises exist and neither person feels like they were shafted. It results in the best of outcomes as far as arguing goes and each person can walk away feeling that progress was made.

What's your argument style?

Good question! Figuring out one's argument style means taking a deep dive into who you really are, especially when things get heated. When you can identify your argument style, you can be mindful of what you say and how you handle yourself. If you realize your gut reaction is to attack, then you can take steps to settle yourself down and communicate in a healthy way. If your style is to withdraw, then you can work on being more communicative about your feelings. 

"A lack of communication only causes anger to build up on both sides," psychologist Ridhi Golechha tells Bonobology. "This can result in constant fighting in a relationship, which can be exhausting. You might even question if it is worth draining your energy over. But isn't that what relationships are all about? You fight, apologize, forgive... Not because you love fighting. Because you want to be with this person despite difficult times."

While we may not be able to change the argument styles of those around us, recognizing our own style allows for mindfulness and that's exactly what's needed to reach a resolution. If you're unable to see what your argument style is, then Psychology Today has a very handy online test to help you figure it out. From there, you can make the necessary changes so no argument is a waste and it's as productive and fair as possible, with both people walking away feeling secure in what was resolved.