Donna Smaldone
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Wednesday / September 14 / 2011

Learning the art of argument: Lesson #2: Understand your arguing roots

Me (standing in the front, 7 yrs old) with my brother Mark (9 yrs old), baby sister Debbie (7 months old), our Dad & Mom, and Grandma & Grandpa (Mom's parents). We're on the steps of Grandma & Grandpa's home at 4 Willo Lane in Loudenville, NY on their 50th Wedding Anniversary (June 29, 1977)
Me (standing in the front, 7 yrs old) with my brother Mark (9 yrs old), baby sister Debbie (7 months old), our Dad & Mom, and Grandma & Grandpa (Mom’s parents). We’re on the steps of Grandma & Grandpa’s home at 4 Willo Lane in Loudenville, NY on their 50th Wedding Anniversary (June 29, 1977)

Understanding how you first learned to argue is critical to the success of your relationships. This series explores how to learn, understand, and nurture your art of arguing. LESSON #2: Understand your arguing roots

Spending the week in Myrtle Beach with my parents is always full of relaxation and reminiscing. Little did they know, however, our conversations during this visit would become the subject of my blog posts… (although I think they caught on when I began typing as we talked!)

The art of arguing is truly an art. It grows us, stretches us, challenges us. Your “we” becomes better for it. When you enter into adult relationships, you can’t help but bring behaviors you observed growing up with you: your “arguing roots.

To achieve fruitful arguments, you must begin by examining your arguing roots because those roots are the base of understanding for all your arguing output and behavior. Likewise, it’s crucial to spend time learning your partner’s arguing roots. Then working together, you can determine the most effective, productive way for the two of you to debate,  argue, process, and resolve.

Now — (no pressure) — but keep in mind that your art will become the arguing roots of your children. The roots they will bring into their adult relationships.

My Mom and Dad grew up with very different arguing roots. Mom grew up in a home with open, frequent, heart-issue conversations which inevitably, included arguing. Her parents taught her and her brother to talk about and process everything. They were peace-makers not peace-keepers.

Discussion and debate were commonplace at Mom’s house. She recalls the times her parents spoke Polish to one another in elevated tones so she and her brother wouldn’t understand. Despite the foreign language, they indeed understood their parents were arguing. As Mom will tell you, the Polish went on till they talked it through. And every night, they’d sit side-by-side on the couch, Grandpa cradling Grandma’s hand is the warmth of his own.

Flip the coin.

My Dad cannot recall ever seeing his parents fight. They were peace-keepers not peace-makers. They believed there really wasn’t a need to argue. Dad felt there was an open door to talk about things when needed, but generally there was no need to process feelings or incidents at an extended level. There was just an understanding that life would continue on and be good.

Whether you consider your arguing roots right or wrong, better or worse – they belong to you and it’s important you comprehend them. In most cases, you’ll embrace pieces of your arguing roots and vehemently throw out others. The key is to identify them, identify your partner’s, and work to build your own. Without that process, you’ll continue to repeat the behaviors learned in your youth, much like the conditioned reflex of Pavlov’s dogs.

I am the spitting image of my Grandma (my Mom’s Mom) and will carry her zest for life (read: argumentative spirit) forever. My mother and I were by Grandma’s side, holding her hand and singing to her when she took her last breath on the 20th of January in 1998. She was a spitfire each and every one of her 93 years, and I’m following closely in her footsteps.

My Grandma taught me to:
* Understand my quirks
* Embrace my arguing roots
* Be passionately and unabashedly ME
* Never attack someone’s personhood
* Recognize I’m always right (…oh, wait – that’s one I’ve had to adjust)

Embrace your arguing roots. They formed the “you” you started with. Yes, you will massage and adjust them to fit your uniqueness – but you can only truly do that after you’ve embraced them.


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

8 responses to “Learning the art of argument: Lesson #2: Understand your arguing roots”

  1. Kasey says:

    classic roots for the 20 somethings growing up is a more of a ” I know you are but what am I” type of mentality, and with siblings it only enforces this, with my family we argued about the usual things that led to us making jokes about it later, or turning the original fight into a joke and I think that almost defined the way i argue with people, when it’s about arguments… it’s the sarcasm that comes into play and actually hope my future family takes the traits of me because it changes the fight into a lighter air almost. I get my arguing skills from my father…haha it really makes me laugh thinking about it and I love it

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      That’s such an interesting take, Kasey – thanks for sharing. The main caution with sarcasm is ensuring you don’t fall off-track and neglect to address the issue-at-hand. However, I believe an added sense of humor is often helpful in lightening the mood and keeping things real! In fact… I am THANKFUL for a healthy dose of humor!

  2. Debbie says:

    Yep…. pretty sure I’ve inherited from Daddy’s side….

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Sissy, I understand your tendency is to stay in the background and allow life to happen, but I applaud you for stepping outside your normal comfort zone (at least with me!!) to have your voice heard. You are cherished and your thoughts and opinions not only matter… they make a difference.

  3. Debbie says:

    and PS- look at that HUGE baby in that photo!!! LOL Holy cow! 7 months old??!!!

  4. Rick says:

    Donna, what I really love about this series so far is how in depth you get. There’s no fluff here–just good, common sense information people can apply to their lives and make work for them.

    I know some bloggers have difficulty including the personal stuff about them and their families, but when you write blogs like we do, there’s no choice. It’s be authentic and share openly, in the spirit of contributing and helping, or waste people’s time. There’s no time wasted here.

    I love the image of you and your mother holding your grandmother’s hand and singing to her as she passed. So personal and so beautiful. Interestingly, this piece is about getting to one’s roots related to arguing, but, in the process of opening up details about your life, people learn other things about you and other ways of being in the world.

    Great work.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      I’ve just read and re-read your comments, Rick. Thank you so much for taking the time to share such heartfelt words. They (and you!) are truly appreciated. Love, Donna

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