Social Question

SuperMouse's avatar

What are some tips for avoiding the confrontation when someone is determined to start a fight with you?

Asked by SuperMouse (30798points) July 5th, 2012

What do you do when someone is spoiling for a fight and you really want to avoid it?

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21 Answers

Blondesjon's avatar

I keep my mouth shut.

very, very simple advice and very, very hard for me to do.

Rarebear's avatar

Walk away.

gailcalled's avatar

Physically leave. Put yourself in another room, another house, another store or public space or in the car and then drive someplace else.

Or as a test of real determination, sit down calmly, listen and say absolutely nothing. Eventually the other person will have to run down.

SuperMouse's avatar

Has anyone had an experience where ignoring or trying to leave just feeds the other person’s determination?

nikipedia's avatar

Carolyn Hax, my favorite advice columnist, often advises people to simply repeat themselves. I think this is a brilliant way to put up a brick wall against someone intent on starting an argument.

gailcalled's avatar

@SuperMouse: Even the most determined and argumentative idiot will at some point have to shut up. Would holding a stop watch help?

And what do you mean by “trying to leave”? Does he restrain you physically??

dabbler's avatar

Toss a lot of “I see what you’re saying” at them, assuming you do. And a few “I see how you could feel like that.” Showing understanding is disarming.
It’s not agreement but it takes away an excuse to be confrontational at you.

Blondesjon's avatar

@gailcalled . . . Why would you assume that it’s a man?

gailcalled's avatar

Only because of previous remarks and questions about someone scarily unpleasant in Super’s life. But you’re right; I am assuming.

Bellatrix's avatar

On reading this question my immediate thought was ‘walk away’. If you can’t leave physically, tune out mentally and do not respond beyond stating your point of view initially. There is no point arguing beyond that. I do realise how hard this can be at times and that some people know just how to push our buttons to ensure we do react. That’s why removing yourself physically is the best option and as quickly as possible.

Blondesjon's avatar

@gailcalled . . . no problem. i was just curious.

stay safe mousey

SuperMouse's avatar

@gailcalled no there is no restraint involved, just kind of a figurative walking away before an argument gets started. P.S. Thank you for your concern.

Fortunately this question isn’t about any specific relationship, just kind of a broad question about interacting with people. I come from a very argumentative family and tend to be the type who is easily lured into confrontation, it works great within the family but in the real world not so much. It would be cool if I could learn some tricks to “sit on my rock” as it were with loving detachment and avoid being so easily sucked in.

Judi's avatar

In jr high I had girls picking fights with me all the time. I am not sure how I avoided actually coming to blows, but even though a physical fight was their intention, I always managed to talk my way out of it. Pointing out how pointless fighting was, and how it didn’t solve problems worked with physical fights in 7th grade.
Verbal fights at 50 might be a different story.

funkdaddy's avatar

If you’re going to lose your cool and don’t want to, it’s not figuratively walking away, it’s actually physically walking away. It’s not about getting a last speech in, or looking good doing it, it’s about keeping things from getting to a point you will both regret. Salvage the situation by not going any further.

Before that, if you can, try to remember that you’re still very much in control of yourself. Personally I tend to lose my way when I realize the other person couldn’t possibly want things to go well, and then it’s a short jump to “well if they want an argument/fight/pissing contest, they’re going to get one”. Or, “They’re hoping I’m scared, I’m not, lets do this”.

That’s not what I went into the conversation or gathering hoping for so I just have to remember that if things are hopeless to get what I want out of the situation, then it is probably best to leave before we all get more than we bargained for. There’s no good reason to give up control of myself.

this has just worked for me, so I’m not saying any of this as someone who’s mastered themselves and is beyond losing myself in the moment occasionally, but just as someone who has thought a lot about how to avoid doing the same in the future

dabbler's avatar

@funkdaddy Amen to “no good reason to give up control of myself” even to your own feelings.
You spill a lot of energy uselessly by allowing pain or anger to control you.
If you decide to have a fight do it on your terms, be well armed (smart words!) in all the ways that are going to matter. Note that one fight with such a person might not be the end of it.
If it edges toward physical, be prepared for the consequences. Never throw the first punch. Probably smarter to leave in almost every case instead of a physical roughhousing unless you have training and discipline.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Walk away and keep your mouth shut….. until that’s no longer an option. Happened to me in high school and it was ugly. Unfortunately, most jellies know I have a problem with keeping my mouth shut. :D I think I’m getting better at just walking away, though.

creative1's avatar

Get up and leave the situation nothing is worth getting in to a fight over. You are the bigger person when you walk away.

Sunny2's avatar

I just close my mouth until the rant stops. Then I say, “I don’t want to argue with you.” and don’t say anything further.

wundayatta's avatar

Some people like confrontations. For some, it is a way of engaging other people, and they don’t seem to know any other ways. It sounds to me that this is how your family is.

I would like to suggest that you try listening. Be warned: listening takes great discipline. What you have to do is tell yourself that your job in this conversation is to fully understand the other person’s point of view. Your job is to get as much information as you can from them that will enable you to understand what they think and how they got to think it.

This means that you can ask questions designed to achieve this goal, but you can not express your own opinion about what they say. For everything that sounds whacko to you, you have to ask enough questions so that they can tell you what you need in order for you to be able to say that you can understand how they came to think that.

This can be pretty difficult to do, but if you stay focused on your goal (to understand them), you can stay on task. The thing is most of us want to hear ourselves talk. We want to engage. We want to fight. We want to win. So we can’t shut ourselves up to listen.

It helps if you are truly interested in the other person’s point of view. Or truly interested in the person. It really helps if you like them.

However, many times, asking questions can be a subversive way of arguing. If you ask questions, sometimes people will stop and listen to themselves and discover, on their own, that what they think is questionable. This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen and is quite rewarding when it does.

But if you don’t like someone, then it’s hard to have the patience. You just want to knock the person on the head, the way a few people want to do to me. Personally, I don’t mind a fair fight. I don’t like it when people start calling names, though. Still, when they call me names, I can respond to the provocation, as I usually do, or I can stop and ask why they think what I say is hogwash. It all depends. If I get angry, which being told I am spouting hogwash usually does to me, I won’t want to love the person and try to understand them. I want to hurt them for hurting me. I forget that I am even hurt, because my anger jumps up so quickly, I don’t even remember it’s because I’ve been hurt.

So here’s another to think about. When people attack in an argument, they probably have been hurt. If you can step back and control your own anger and remember they’ve hurt you, and extend them the courtesy of thinking they may not have meant to do it, then you can give yourself the grace period you need to ask questions. If you ask questions, you can’t argue and you can’t really fight (although there are some people who get angry when you ask questions, too—I guess you can just say you are trying to understand).

Blu's avatar

With my mother, walking away or keeping your mouth shut and letting her rant just fans the flames. It is honestly better with her to just go in and get it over with. My dad held off from talking about a topic my Mom wanted to fight for about a month before giving way and fighting with her. I’ve tried keeping my mouth shut and she then goes off about how I must have so many dark and dirty secrets and that people with secrets are scumbags and whatnot… The short of this is, if my mother wants a fight with someone, better just go ahead and give her the fight she’s obviously itching for. But aside from her, keeping my mouth shut and walking away has been pretty effective.

augustlan's avatar

Disengage, whether that means hanging up the phone or walking/driving away. For a small subset of people, this will just make them more determined, but even with those people, if you refuse to engage every single time, they will have to give up.

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