Donna Smaldone
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Tuesday / September 13 / 2011

Learning the art of argument: Lesson #1: Feelings are valid

Me and my Momma in Myrtle Beach (Sept. 13, 2011)

There’s an art to argument, you ask? Resoundingly, yes. In order to have a happy, successful, fruitful relationship, it’s critical you learn the art of argument unique to your relationships. In this series, we’ll explore how you can learn your art (whether you consider yourself an artist or not!)

Let’s start at the beginning. The core. The big picture, if you will. The “why do we exist?” kind of piece.

I believe we are souls that have bodies, not the other way around.

When we argue, we use our soul and our body. I helped my daughter Brittany with her college English homework the other night and she had to determine which questions were “informational” and which were “issues” – or (how we broke it down) whether they were fact-based or opinion-based.

Fact-based arguments are the easy ones. If you can answer a question by looking it up in the encyclopedia, then there is indeed a right and wrong answer. The majority of arguments, however, revolve around opinion-based issues for which there is no ‘winning’. Those are soul issues.

Once you marry your body to your soul issues, you begin to have, well… issues. The body is brain-centric and the brain is always in survival mode. It’s designed to be self-serving. The options it gives you are fight-or-flee.

My husband paints the picture this way: our souls frustratingly look at our bodies and say, “Look, at best you’re only going to be around 100 or so years, so why do YOU get to run the show?”

Lesson Number One in learning the art of argument includes recognizing that someone else’s feelings and opinions are valid.

Feelings are valid. Yours and the other person’s.

It’s crucial to understand the differences between you and the person with whom you’re arguing, especially with regards to feelings and opinions. When you begin to value where someone else is coming from and understand their biggest strengths are also their biggest weaknesses, you gift yourself and your relationship with the freedom of acceptance and clarity of perception.

There are pain points to open, honest conversations, but when you have an understanding, the pain can be managed and controlled.

I’ll give you a real-time “for instance”. My Mom is one of the most beautiful, loving, giving souls I know, like a great big hug personified. My Mom loves to be needed. She needs to be needed. She spends an enormous amount of time helping my brother and sister  – and thinking about helping my brother and sister. Whether she’s flying across the country to see them or they’re flying to South Carolina to see her, she has a checklist in hand, a kid-friendly stocked pantry, and is fully prepared (and excited) to stay up late preparing for the next day, be up early, and go!, go!, go! the entire visit. She ends up exhausted… but fulfilled.

Mom doesn’t spend nearly as much time with me – or thinking about me – because my kids are grown and I don’t “need” her in the same way. I need her to be my Mom, but that’s it. When we visit together, we stay up late sipping wine, laughing, and sharing life together. We sleep in. We go to the pool, kayaking, to 8:00pm dinners with friends, and never worry about packing sippy-cups.

The pain point for me is I’d like to spend more time with my Mom. The understanding I’m gifted with is that my Mom loves and adores me and loves spending time with me. She’s simply wired is such a way that she finds great fulfillment (fulfillment she seeks and needs) in being needed at a level I don’t provide. We’ve talked openly and honestly about this many times (including this afternoon as I’m currently in Myrtle Beach visiting for the week). And therein lies the strength of our relationship.

Don’t miss the rest of this series:
Learning the art of argument: Lesson #1: Feelings are valid
Learning the art of argument: Lesson #2: Understand your arguing roots
Learning the art of argument: Lesson #3: Choose the right words
Learning the art of argument: Lesson #4: Control anger escalation


4 responses to “Learning the art of argument: Lesson #1: Feelings are valid”

  1. Kelly says:

    I love reading your insights, Donna! Hope you’re having a nice visit!!
    Kelly Moore

  2. Rick says:

    Wow! There’s a lot of insightful stuff to take in from this piece, Donna. This is going to take at least a couple of reads to absorb it all.

    But, as usual, you’ve hit everything on the head. I especially love the section about the nature of your mother’s relationship with you and with your siblings, and how different they are. I’d say you and your mom have talked about this and come to an understanding, which prevents disagreements. But I just bet if you showed you need your mom more, in ways that work for her, she’d be there for you a lot more. I understand it’s difficult to be a bigger part of each other’s lives when there’s such a distance between you, but that’s where closeness of the heart comes in, isn’t it?

    Nicely done, Donna. I can’t wait to read the next three parts.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Thank you, Rick. Closeness of the heart is indeed more important than geographic proximity. –although I did love spending time with Mom & Dad in person last week! Love, Donna

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