Argue or confront?

Wherever people interact with each other, disagreements arise. But how do you deal with that properly? Many people are inclined to “keep the peace”, they do not like arguing and avoid confrontations. Is arguing the same as confronting each other with your opinion or feelings?

What is arguing?

To give a clear answer to this question, we must first investigate what an argument actually is. According to van Dale, an argument is: a difference of opinion. Colloquially it often means that you blame each other, belittle, scold or even worse. The cause of this is indeed often a difference of opinion. Whether it concerns your partner, your colleague, your children or your neighbors, there are differences in every human contact. If you want to maintain a good relationship with each other, it is important that you notice those differences and discuss them with each other. In most relationships this doesn’t happen enough. People irritate each other, sometimes unnoticed and unconsciously. This creates tension. That can go unnoticed for a while. You can tell yourself for a long time that it is not important. You don’t say anything about it, but it does irritate you. And all those small incidents and unimportant irritations pile up. There comes a time when one of the parties reaches an emotional limit. The bucket is full, and things are escalating. The method can vary greatly. One person will shout, another will accuse, another will remain silent. In more extreme cases, physical violence is involved. A lot of things also happen to you physically, shortly before and during an argument. Your heart beats faster, your muscles tense, your face turns red, all physical reactions to anger and tension. All that tension makes it difficult for you to think clearly.


Argument is therefore an escalation of built-up emotions. There are often different things that irritate someone else. Especially in an intensive relationship such as a marriage or a parent-child relationship, there are many little things that individually do not seem that important. But the moment you reach your boiling point, all those little things suddenly come to the surface at once. The reason can be very small, but because so many little things have not been expressed, everything comes out at once. Before you know it, the argument is about completely different things than the reason.

What does it solve?

Unfortunately, arguing doesn’t solve anything in most cases. Because arguments are an escalation of built-up emotions, things quickly get out of hand. Irrelevant things are added, false comments are made, old cows are pulled out of the ditch, insults and humiliations are shouted, doors are slammed or worse. The other person may feel overwhelmed by the abundance of frustration and start to defend themselves. None of this contributes to a solution to the problem that started it. On the contrary. However, an argument can contribute to a solution, namely if you want to make amends afterwards. Making up is the only truly meaningful part of an argument. Because only when you have both calmed down can you express what is really bothering you and listen to what the other person actually has to say. And that’s what we call confrontation.

What is a confrontation?

Confrontation literally means placing opinions or insights against each other. This sounds calmer than arguing. It actually means that you tell the other person what is bothering you, preferably before the matter escalates. The other person then has the opportunity to respond. He can explain his position or the background of his behavior. In this way there is room for mutual understanding. Once you have made it clear what bothers you and what irritates you, the other person can respond to that.

Confront well

Although it can be nice to let out all your anger uncontrollably, in most cases it doesn’t solve anything. It is therefore better for mutual contact to prevent such an escalation. But how?
The best way to prevent escalation is to ensure that you discuss what is bothering you with the other person at an early stage. Confront the other person with your feelings in a quiet moment, without making accusations or bringing up irrelevant matters. So: I noticed that and it irritates me. Stick to one topic at a time. Make sure you don’t just do the talking, also listen to the other person. Try asking a few questions and listening to the answers so you can gain more insight into the background of his or her behavior.

Good confrontation therefore means: making it clear to the other person what you think or what you feel without reproaching, but also: listening to the other person’s reaction. This only works if you are calm. So don’t wait until you are overflowing with frustration!