The Most Underrated Phrases That Can Diffuse Any Argument

The Most Underrated Phrases That Can Diffuse Any Argument

Arguments are an inevitable part of being human. Whether it’s a heated debate with your partner, a tense disagreement with a coworker, or a frustrating back-and-forth with a family member, we all hit those moments where it feels like things are about to explode. While a little healthy conflict can be good, those full-on shouting matches don’t really do anyone any favors. That’s where some carefully chosen phrases come in handy. These aren’t about winning the fight or pretending to agree. They’re about de-escalating the situation, showing you’re listening, and opening the door to actual solutions rather than just hurt feelings.

1. “Help me understand where you’re coming from.”

Instead of immediately jumping on the defensive, asking this in a genuine tone shows you care about the other person’s perspective, Choosing Therapy explains. It’s crazy how often we get so locked into our own viewpoints that we forget the other person feels just as strongly! Understanding their side doesn’t mean giving up on your own, it just helps you address the core issue rather than spinning in circles.

2. “It sounds like you’re feeling [name the emotion].”

Maybe they’re angry, hurt, frustrated, or some mix of everything. Putting a name to their emotion validates what they’re going through, making them feel acknowledged. Often, the feeling behind the argument is the real problem, and when you address that, suddenly the specific argument is way less intense.

3. “Can you give me a specific example?”

Arguments become super unproductive when it’s all “You never listen!” or “You’re always so selfish!” Asking for a concrete example forces the focus onto something specific you can address. It also helps them step away from the emotional spiral and think more logically, which helps everyone calm down a bit.

4. “I didn’t mean to make you feel that way.”

This isn’t about admitting defeat or giving in completely. It’s about recognizing that even if you didn’t have bad intentions, your words or actions had a negative impact. This kind of apology breaks down defensiveness, showing the other person you care about their feelings and don’t want to hurt them, a major step towards finding a solution.

5. “Can we hit pause and come back to this later?”

Family sit on couch having dispute, grown up daughter proves her right aggressively argue with elderly mother, 60s mom in despair due to misunderstanding. Generational gap, conflicts at home concept

We all know that feeling when an argument is going nowhere and everyone’s just getting more worked up. Suggesting a break doesn’t mean you’re giving up on the conversation. It means recognizing that, in this heated moment, neither of you is at your best. Give yourselves time to cool down, regroup, and come back to it with clearer heads.

6. “I can see this is important to you, let’s figure this out.”

When you’re deep in an argument, it’s easy to forget that you both love and care about each other, beneath all the frustration. This phrase acknowledges the importance of the issue to the other person and communicates a willingness to problem-solve together, moving away from the “you vs. me” mentality that makes everything worse.

7. “What would a good compromise look like to you?”

A couple's disagreement becomes a public affair as they walk through a crowded promenade

Even when you disagree strongly, there’s usually some middle ground to be found. This question puts the ball in their court, inviting them to think creatively rather than just stubbornly holding onto their initial position. It also shows your commitment to finding something that works for both of you.

8. “This isn’t how I want to communicate with you.”

When emotions are high, sometimes hurtful things are said in the heat of the moment. This phrase allows you to stand up for yourself without getting into a shouting match over the specific words being flung around. It reminds both of you that even in disagreement, you can choose healthy communication – a total game-changer in the long run.

9. “I hear what you’re saying.”

This simple phrase shows that you’re actively listening and taking their words seriously, even if you disagree. It validates their opinion without forcing you to immediately commit to a solution or concede a point. In tense moments, feeling truly heard can make a world of difference.

10. “Could we try saying that in a different way?”

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When someone’s being harsh or accusatory, this gently redirects them towards more productive communication. It avoids defensiveness (“Hey, that was rude!”) while still prompting them to rephrase in a way that feels less hostile, setting the stage for a calmer discussion.

11. “I need some time to process this.”

Sometimes, you’re blindsided by an argument, or you need a moment to gather your thoughts, Vox notes. This phrase buys you that time, preventing you from saying something hurtful or impulsive out of that initial shock. It’s honest and takes ownership of your emotions, which is always better than lashing out.

12. “Let’s focus on one issue at a time.”

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Arguments have a nasty habit of spiraling – one thing leads to another, and suddenly you’re digging up past grievances instead of solving the current problem. This phrase helps reel things back in. Pick the most pressing issue, address that first, and then tackle the others separately.

13. “I feel [emotion] when you [describe their action].”

Young couple arguing at home needs couples therapyistock

This is all about using “I” statements to express how their actions impact you. Instead of “You always interrupt me!” try “I feel frustrated when I’m interrupted before I finish my thought.” It focuses on your experience, making it less accusatory and more likely to be heard.

14. “Could you help me understand why this is so upsetting for you?”

Angry Caucasian man and senior dad sit separate on couch ignore avoid talking after quarrel fight. Mad stubborn mature father and adult grown son have family misunderstanding. Generation gap concept.

This is especially useful when you think the argument is about something minor, but they’re super fired up. It might be that this small issue taps into a deeper worry or insecurity. Understanding that root cause gives you a much better chance of addressing the actual problem.

15. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

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Often, a person picking an argument is really just feeling overwhelmed, unheard, or stressed. This simple question cuts through the hostility and shows you’re willing to step outside of your own side of things and offer support. It may not magically fix everything, but it shows good intentions.

You may also like: 15 Clever Phrases That Instantly Humble an Arrogant Person

16. “Let’s agree to disagree.”

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you’re just not going to see eye-to-eye. This phrase lets you accept that without invalidating the other person’s viewpoint. It allows you both to move on without resentment, recognizing that respect can exist alongside differing opinions.

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.
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