You can use the deflate technique to avoid explosive arguments.

It’s been a long day at work. You and your partner are both exhausted and hungry. And a petty dispute, which on any other day would have been resolved easily, is beginning to snowball.

Maybe it starts as a passive-aggressive comment about how you threw away some perfectly good food. Then it evolves into an argument about poor money management and value misalignment. And before you know it, you’re competing in a full-blown shouting contest.

Now, was this a productive encounter? Did the parties involved get what they wanted? Well, maybe – if what they wanted was to spread bad blood and create division in the relationship! But if you don’t want that, vitriolic encounters like this should be avoided – because they don’t serve anybody.

A great way of stopping a fight dead in its tracks and redirecting that energy toward connection is to use something called the deflate technique.

This technique is a simple two-step method that goes like this: first, agree with the other person’s concern; then, ask her to help you resolve it.

So, to put it into context, imagine your partner has just fired a barbed comment at you about how you don’t do enough cleaning around the house. The temptation is to respond defensively or to point out her own bad habits. Don’t. Instead, say, “I absolutely want the housework to be more equal – can we work on this issue together?”

Wait, what? What just happened? It was so quick, you might have missed the beauty of it.

First, you redirected the potential conflict toward something you both agree on. Then, you invited your partner to be your ally in resolving the problem.

Most people find this technique so disarming that, just as they’re getting ready for a showdown, they suddenly find themselves at a loss for words. After all, how can you argue with someone who agrees with you?

Now, while it’s healthy to avoid fights, since they’re not a productive form of communication, simply avoiding conflict at all costs isn’t healthy either. In fact, if you’re constantly having to avoid petty fights in your relationship, it might be a sign that there are deeper issues you need to work through.

Still, there’s no need to rush. Hold off on having that conversation until you’re both feeling relaxed – and you’ve had a bite to eat.

Making requests and asking questions are great ways to motivate action.

So far, we’ve focused on how to get what you want during a conversation. But what happens after the talking ends? Well, what we want, ideally, is for both parties to convert what they’ve just learned – or decided – into constructive action.

If, for example, you’d just had a long conversation with a colleague about how it’s inappropriate to wear beach shorts to the office, you’d be pretty annoyed if he rocked up to work the next morning in the same pair of shorts, right?

So, if we’re going to get the results we want from a conversation, we need to know what to say to ensure people act on their words. And one of the best ways to maintain momentum after a conversation ends is to make sure that its final element is a request or a promise.

By making a request, you’re spelling out the exact behavior you want the other person to enact. You might say something like, “Can I count on you to run big expenses by me in the future?” or “Can I trust that you’ll be honest with me from now on?”

Bear in mind that this works the other way around, too. If someone asks you to do something, you should agree to it. It shows that you respect the requester, and it builds a sense of reciprocity between the two of you. After all, if you don’t follow through on other people’s requests, why should they follow through on yours?

An alternative to making a request is to ask a question. A magical question for motivating action is one that begins with, “What happens when . . . ?” This type of question is a brilliant way to get people to follow your advice by making them think it was their great idea.

For example, if you’re trying to get your teenager to study harder, you could ask, “What happens when you don’t study for an exam?” or “What happens when you miss your deadlines?”

When you ask a what-happens-when question, you’re inviting others to think through the consequences of their actions – consequences that they almost certainly want to avoid. With this pain point uncovered, you can then present them with the solution: the change in behavior that will help them avoid this undesirable outcome.

And, voilà! They change their behavior, and you both get what you want.

Your voice is your greatest asset for getting what you want in life, so work on it! By making an effort to clean up your speech, rein in your emotions, and take other people’s wants and hang-ups seriously, you’ll immediately find your conversations more enjoyable – and more rewarding. When you improve the quality of your conversations, connecting with people becomes second nature, problems solve themselves, and doors fly open for you.

Plan, practice, and role-play before a tough conversation.

In real life, you only get one take. If you blow your lines or miss your cues, there’s no post-production editing team to smooth it all out. So if you know you have a high-stakes conversation coming up, you should absolutely prepare for it in advance. One method that might be useful is role-playing your lines. This doesn’t mean you have to act the conversation out in front of the mirror, but you should at least run through the potential arguments and counterarguments in your head. You’ll sound far more confident and authoritative during the real event if you’re not stumbling over your words.

Olusola Bodunrin
Olusola Bodunrin is a social commentator with a passion for gathering facts on social issues. He is writer, businessman, blogger, and wardrobe consultant. He is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Ado-Ekiti. He anchors – ‘What You Should Know’ on SHEFFA. ‘What You Should Know’ is a column that offers to educate and enlighten the public on general falsehood and myths.