How to Cope With Argumentative People

Your partner might not even notice that they’re argumentative, or that when they think you’re having a conversation, you feel like you’re having a fight. They may have learned this communication style as a child, or they may have insecurities or fears that make them feel defensive or shameful  — everyone has something that makes them feel this way.

Your partner may have an argumentative personality, which makes them feel the need to argue their point of view, no matter how trivial the subject matter seems to you. Argumentative  personalities often feel they’re being direct and honest about their feeling, but their communication styles are perceived as combative or aggressive.

What is an argumentative personality

Some people are just argumentative and have lots of strong opinions. But there’s a big difference between a spirited debate and an argument. Argumentative personalities could stem from a wide range of factors including:

  • Communication behaviors learned in childhood
  • Unhappiness
  • Insecurity or shame
  • Defensiveness
  • History of emotional abuse
  • Clinical personality disorder (narcissist, borderline, etc)

It’s also possible they’ve lost their curiosity or have become jaded. People who are curious about others are often better listeners and able to debate a topic without aggression. However, if your partner has lost their curiosity or aren’t interested in other people’s point of view, they may not care what you or anyone else has to say about anything or not have respect for the opinions of others.

Signs of an argumentative personality

People with argumentative personalities are usually self-absorbed. They often find fault with everything or don’t agree with anything you say. Their favorite phrases are:

  • You’re wrong
  • No offense, but
  • It’s your fault

They often have little insight into their own behavior and how it impacts others. Even if they’re not necessarily arguing with you, they probably have bigger, better, or more famous stories than you, to make themselves appear more knowledgeable or powerful. An often, if you call them out on their behavior, they’ll find a way to make the argument your fault or blame you for getting upset while they’re just “having a conversation” with you. Often, they’re defensive, especially when they interact with someone whose opinions differ from their own.

Spending time with an argumentative person isn’t all bad

While spending time with an argumentative person can be exceptionally frustrating and exhausting, you may also find that you develop your skills to stand up for yourself and articulate your thoughts clearly and logically. You’ll hone your skills and fine tune your abiltiy to debate a topic.

How to live with an argumentative personality

First, in many cases, argumentative personalities stem from insecurity and their defensive communications may stem from their perception that they need to defend themselves. You may find that you are more patient and empathetic to argumentative people and their immature communication methods when you realize that their nature stems from insecurity and fears.


You can also reduce the risk of arguments by changing the way you make requests or ask questions. For example, you may find that you get a more positive response with statements such as “I need you to pick up bread and milk on your way home from work” instead of questions like “Do you think you can stop at the grocery store on your way home.”

You may also find that statements that are meant to calm the situation such as “Let’s discuss this peacefully” or “I don’t want to argue” are more like red flags to a bull than soothing phrases. The argumentative person in your life may perceive these phrases as criticism or even bait for a fight.

Remind yourself that their argumentative nature is usually a learned behavior that can change with support and practice. You can talk to the licensed counselors at North Brooklyn Therapy about how to improve your communication skills and support your partner. The team can also provide customized therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to help your partner learn to recognize and modify their negative thoughts and behaviors.

Tips to manage your arguments

Obviously, losing your temper, raising your voice, or getting emotional isn’t going to make your communication any clearer. However, you can take a few steps to slow your arguments without giving in or withdrawing from the conversation.

Try phrases such as “Let me think about that” to buy a little time to consider how you want to respond to a comment. Taking your time to articulate an answer can help you be as clear as possible.

You may also say something such as “You may be right” or “I understand what you’re saying.” These phrases show a willingness to compromise and empathy.  If your partner is arguing or acting defensively, these phrases may help them feel like you are hearing what they’re saying.

If you’re constantly arguing with your partner, or a friend or family member, you can be supportive of them and encourage them to talk to a counselor. Ultimately, you can’t make them do anything, and you can only change your own point of view and behavior. You don’t need to give in or avoid the argumentative person in your life, but you can improve your own communication skills and identify the topics that you’re willing to compromise on or agree to disagree.

The experienced licensed counselors at North Brooklyn Therapy can help you improve your communication and control your own negative thoughts and feelings. Or, if you think that you’re argumentative, they can help you explore and resolve the issues that contribute to your behavior and repair and strengthen your relationships with friends, family, and other loved ones.

5 Responses

  1. Ian

    Great article. Regarding “I need you to pick up bread and milk on your way home from work” … I don’t mean to take you literally, I tried this but it also generated argument 🙂 Further ongoing experimentation ultimately found this works better: “Hey , we’re almost out of bread and milk. Would you be able to get some on your way home from work? I could do it sometime (but it’s not really on my way and I’m cooking dinner right now)? Let me know? xxx”.

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