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10 Things to Say to Keep the Peace

From family mediator Laurie Puhn, simple phrases that will help you avoid arguments.

By Laurie Puhn
10 Things to Say to Keep the PeaceMichael Kelly/Stone/Getty Images 


3. “Would you like my thoughts?” One of the biggest complaints kids have about parents is that they constantly issue orders and judgments. Sometimes this is a parent’s job. But if you are often confronted with an angry response (“Who made you the authority?” or “It’s none of your business”), you might benefit from dialing back. Ask your child if she wants to hear what you have to say. If she says yes, it means she is ready to listen. If she says no, then button your lip. This works for adult family members, too. 


4. “Why don’t we get the facts?” Some people who come to mediation tend to argue about anything and everything, including things that can be easily resolved. If you find yourself in a dispute with your brother about the price of a car or the name of the restaurant you went to over the holidays last year, state this one-liner, then look up prices online, call a store, or drive by the restaurant―not so one of you can say, “I told you so,” but so you can move on from the discussion before it spirals into a fight.


5. “I need your help. Can you please…?” People often ask me what they can say to family members or coworkers who don’t assume their share of responsibility. Here’s my simple tip: Rather than accusing the person of being lazy or inconsiderate, ask her for what you want and be specific. “Since we both drink coffee, how about if I make the pot and you clean it, or vice versa?” People are not mind readers.


6. “Let’s wait on this until we have more information.” Know when to table a discussion. One couple came to me with a dispute that had turned into a huge problem for them: They were constantly arguing over whether they should stay in their city apartment or move to a house in the suburbs. The issue wasn’t which choice they should make (they had already agreed they wouldn’t move for three years, or until their oldest child reached school age); it was that they were having a premature argument. At times like these, it’s important to remind yourself and your conversation partner that it’s too early to discuss the issue. Preferences will change over time, as will facts, such as home prices. 


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