Argument Starters VS. Conversation Starters





No preface


 While chopping vegetables, “You know I really don’t like the way your handling Joe’s situation with school.”

 “Could we talk?” 

“There is something I thought we could talk about..” 

“Maybe we could talk about. . .”  

 If the person is busy, pick a time to talk. 








The defensive creating “Why” question

Exploration questions


“Why did you?” 

“Why did you do that?”



“What was your thinking on that?”

“What did that do for you to do. . .?”



Attacking personhood

Challenging behavior  (behavior is easier to                              change than identity)


You’re a __________. (fill in the blank)


Ex.  “You’re a real lazy person.”

        “Your’re a numbskull.”



 “When you do ________, I feel _______.”


Ex.  “When you criticize me, I feel hurt.”

        “When you ignore me, I feel left out.”

          “When you come home late, I feel lonely.”















Attacking character

Challenging character issue (one issue)


“You’re really _______.”  (fill in the blank)


Ex. You’re really stupid.

       You’re really not that together.



“You really seem to have trouble with _______.”


Ex.  You really seem to have trouble with honesty.




Moderate commenting


Ex. “You are always…”

        “Every time. . . “

        “Never have a seen. . .”

        “We never have sex. . .”(or talk, or date, or work together, etc.)


This doesn’t work because the other person is going to think of the one time they didn’t and then discount what you have to say.  “Attacking Character” and “Attacking Personhood” are also over generalizations.


Ex.  “You tend to. . .”


       “I have noticed that. . . some times. . .”



        “More often than not. . .”

              (use when you really want to emphasize

                   that is a lot of the time)

         “Usually, . . .




Over commenting

Use of questions


This occurs when we feel the need to correct, instruct, educate, persuade to one’s way of thinking, or just plan being codependent.  This place is not really a place of humility, but of pride.  It usually occurs when we have an over inflated sense of self and that our reality is more accurate than the other person’s.  In addition, we believe that without our help they won’t get it. 


What happens, the person gets defensive and appears not to get it.




“You didn’t like that did you.”


“You really are angry.”



This implies humility and that I don’t know everything.  I ask questions, because I don’t know and that I want to know.  I am curious.  Of course, questions can be used in a “controlling way.”  Thus, it is important to use appropriate tone of voice.  Putting things in the form of a question softens the comment.  Notice the difference.


Ex.  “I think you are mad at me.”


       “Are you mad at me.”


Ex.  “I am wondering, what’s going on for you in that situation.”


“What is that like for you.”


“What am I doing that is causing you this much anger?”


“What can I do to make this better?”


“Obviously, I am not understanding what you are saying, could you say that again?”


“You have thrown a lot at me, what is it specifically that you want me to do?”


Mind Reading


Ex.  “You’re mad at me.”

Ex.  “Are you mad?” 

 “Did I do something to offend you?” 

(notice that it puts it back on the communicator that putting on the recipient.)



















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