How to shut down an argumentative person

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Kevin Mangelschots

Conflicts are indispensable to reach a better understanding of each other, to attain new information and knowledge, and to maintain a peaceful, cooperative society by solving issues that pop up.

Yet, there are those who don’t know how to quit a discussion gracefully, and will continue arguing like their lives depend on it. That’s precisely why we need to know how to end a dispute if needed.

But how do you shut down an argumentative person the right way, preferably without offending them too much? Let’s find out.

How do you politely end an argument?

  • Tell them to stop

    Image of a man holding his hand in front of his face, indicating that he's telling someone to stop.

    Telling them to stop can be an extremely powerful and straightforward tool to shut down the argumentative person instantly.

    When doing so, make sure to do it with confidence, which means looking them in the eye, and using a firm and steady tone. Don’t raise the pitch of your voice too much as this will make you seem weak and vulnerable.

    Still, this can go two ways. Most people will stop immediately seeing as they’re not used to people telling them right to their face to stop. But this can also hurt the ego of those who are fragile and unconfident.

    Those are the folks who might take it to heart which can make them even more combative and eager to confront you. It can even make them verbally and physically aggressive in extreme cases. So use with caution and when you’re self-assured enough that you can pull it off.

  • Answering neutrally, and keeping the topics you converse about impersonal are your best chance to prevent riling up the other party. This can aid to reduce tension, and can dissolve the argument entirely.

    But beware. Sometimes the other individual might notice what you’re doing and call you out in the process. When they realize what you’re trying to accomplish, they might get even more annoyed and angry which can lead to even more frequent conflicts, with increased intensity to boot.

  • Image of a man focusing on one thing while the rest of his colleagues are talking in a meeting.

    Withdrawing can mean literally walking away from the conflict. Although this can also make you appear weak and frail if you do this too often.

    When walking away from the argument, it’s best to say that you’re not interested in having a debate since that makes you seem assertive rather than submissive. It gives you a reasonable explanation and incentive for doing so.

    But withdrawing can also mean pulling away emotionally. It can involve refusing to take things personally, and not getting caught up in the argument by simply trying to end it.

  • Most argumentative people do so because they like to argue, and because they have the need to be right. They regularly feel a sense of superiority in ‘winning’ the argument that they so enjoy and thrive on.

    When you notice that the argument is going nowhere, and that the other person isn’t going to let it go, even when they’re clearly wrong, then it’s best to end the conflict since it will lead to nothing good.

    Simply saying, ‘you’re right’ or, ‘I agree with your points’ can help end the debate, even when you don’t truly believe in what they’re saying.

    This usually cools down their anger since they’re at a dead end, which leaves them feeling like they’re the victor.

  • Image of a woman holding her finger in front of her mouth, signifying to be silent.

    One of the best things to do when you know someone enjoys arguing is simply not asking for their opinion about the matter.

    What you want to do is give them as few opportunities as possible to start a conflict with you. And not talking to them, or at the very least not asking for their opinion(s) is one of the best ways to reduce conflict with such people.

    You also shouldn’t give your opinion to them, as they will use this as an opportunity to start a debate with you. You want to reduce the chance of setting them off as much as possible, since emotional people are more likely to engage in pointless arguments to prove a point and get you to agree with them.

  • “Let me think about that”

    Saying, ‘let me think about that’ can end the argument since you’re basically asking for more time to think things though.

    This means that it can end the immediate conflict, although it’s possible that the same conversation will pop up at a later date since it’s still up in the air and ‘undecided’.

    Still, it’s worth a shot. But be careful of applying this strategy too much to the same person, as they will probably catch on to the pattern which can make them angry, or cause them to call you out on it.

  • “It’s possible that you’re right”

    Image of the word 'impossible' with the letters 'im' being erased with an eraser. Thus, indicating that it's possible.

    Simply saying, ‘you may be right’ appeals to their ego. Everyone likes to be right, and those who are truly argumentative often do so because they feel the need and desire to be right, as it makes them feel better than those around them.

    Saying you may be right also doesn’t really confirm that they’re truly right, seeing as you simply entertain that they ‘may’ be right. This is also less harsh on your own pride since you don’t truly admit they’re 100% right.

  • Say that you understand

    Saying you understand typically invokes feelings of companionship and apprehension. You would be amazed what simply listening and saying you understand does to establish a civilized, respectful dispute.

    Saying you understand can dissolve a conflict since they feel like they’ve driven their point home, and don’t need to continue rambling on desperately trying to make their point or trying to prove they’re right.

  • Get the feelings out into the open.

    Talking about how constantly having to engage in arguments makes you feel can help the other person understand that what might be enjoyable to them, isn’t fun at all for you.

    Again, this can lead to two outcomes.

    If they’re decent, and civilized people, then they will stop bothering you with their conflicts. If they’re bad people, or have no ethics, then they might harass you even more since they know it gets to you emotionally, or simply because they don’t care about your feelings.

  • Don’t take it personally

    Not taking things personally can help you to cope better with the constant arguments, but can also assist in shutting down arguments since you’re much more likely to stay calm and emotionally tranquil.

    It’s generally a good idea to not take things personally since most things are typically not meant that way. It’s also very mentally taxing constantly thinking that there’s something wrong with you that causes them to contend with you.

  • Don’t get caught up in arguments you don’t want to have.

    The quote, “arguing with a fool is the easiest way to become one” written in white letters on a black background.

    This one might sound simple in theory, but its ingenuity lies in its simplicity.

    While it seems straightforward, it’s a lot harder than it looks to not get dragged into arguments that you don’t actually want to have. Sometimes we get emotional, or feel the need to defend ourselves which can result in actively engaging in said conflicts.

    But this is exactly what those kinds of people thrive on. Chances are large that they know what to say to get you irritated, and that this frequently means that you will engage in arguments with them. This would mean giving them exactly what they want, which you quite obviously shouldn’t do.

    That’s why you should keep a clear head, think rationally, and control your temper to prevent lashing out and arguing when it has no use.

  • Help by giving the person other outlets for their anger.

    I would say that this one is unlikely to work based on the fact that you’re giving others advice to vent their pent-up anger.

    This means that the person in question has to be open-minded, not simply arguing to win, and be calm enough to negate their emotions taking the upper hand for it to have a chance of working.

    That’s a lot to ask. Particularly when we know that humans are irrational, and emotional beings. Still, in some special instances, this might work just fine. But the majority of the time, I wouldn’t recommend this strategy since it will most likely backfire.

  • Avoid certain heated topics

    Image of white crooked arrows on a black background, signifying avoidance.

    When you’ve had plenty of discussions with a specific person, then you know which topics get them riled up. Logically, it’s best to avoid those topics since you want to limit the things that set them off.

    Of course, it’s still possible that you inadvertently start talking about something they’re passionate, or feel strongly about. But limiting the heated topics will go a long way to prevent discussions from taking place, or at the very least from getting out of hand.

  • Remain calm

    Don’t get angry yourself. When you’re constantly dealing with a quarrelsome person, then the need to put them in their place because you get annoyed and tired of their constant bickering often flares up.

    However, this is usually counterproductive. When both parties get stirred up is when emotions erupt, and chaos ensues. This typically only leads to combative engagements where the need to be right, control, and power rule over respectfully making a point and learning something new.

    Furthermore, you show the other individual that they have power over you when you get emotional. And this is obviously something we don’t want since some people thrive on controlling and having power over others.

How do you end an argument with one sentence?

“Let’s agree to disagree”

The quote, “it's OK to disagree, but not OK to disrespect.” written in white letters on a red background.

The best thing to do in order to end an argument with one sentence is saying, “let’s agree to disagree”.

This way, neither party gets offended.

When you say something like, “stop arguing with me”, or, “I don’t care”, you’re more likely to invoke feelings of anger and vengeance. Chances are large that it will arouse them to insist in order to make their point to get you to listen and agree with them.

“I agree with what you’re saying”

Saying you agree with what they’re saying basically ends the argument since one party ‘won’ and got what they wanted. And that one party is them.

But it can be a tough pill to swallow when you don’t truly believe with the point(s) they’re making. If you have an ego, or are prideful, then it’s unlikely that you’ll take this route.

Furthermore, in some instances, this might not work since people will catch onto the fact, or suspect, that you’re being disingenuous. This might cause them to keep debating with increased intensity.

“Can you stop arguing?”

Saying ‘can you stop arguing’ can sometimes end the discussion if they’re respectful, don’t take things personally, and are in check of their emotions. That’s quite a lot to ask from most people though.

Thus, this option is best reserved for special occasions. In my opinions, especially when emotions are running high, I wouldn’t use this tactic. People are probably going to get angry, or at the very least triggered which means they’re going to make it a point to win the dispute. No matter if they’re right or not.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

How do you end an argument with one word?

It’s extremely hard to end an argument with just one word, but it can be done.

“Agreed”

Image of the word 'agreeing' written in red on a white/grayish background.

You’re most likely to end an argument when you simply say “agreed” after the other party ends up making their point.

Granted, that might hurt your ego, especially when you don’t believe in what you’re saying, or when you straight up know that they’re incorrect.

Yet, agreeing with the other person is likely to make them feel like they made their point effectively. They will probably think they won, and this will consequently make them feel like they accomplished what they set out to do from the very beginning.

“Stop”

Telling someone to stop can be a powerful instrument to end an argument sometimes. But it’s also possible that they see this as a challenge and as an incentive to keep contesting your beliefs, which means the debate will continue instead of ending.

Hence, it’s a double-edged sword. They might respect you enough to quit contending, or it might set them off to keep going. If they’re emotional and prone to taking things personally, then this might not be the best option to go for.

What does not work to end an argument

It’s hard to end a conflict, especially when you’re certain that you’re right.

That, or perhaps the fact that we’re short on time, or when we just want to get the argument over with, can cause us to take some drastic measures in an attempt to end the disagreement.

These tactics can be:

An angry man yelling with a clenched fist.

  • Speaking overly loud
  • Overtalking
  • Speaking quickly
  • Not letting go of the topic and argument
  • Following the other person around to keep the conflict going

But it’s important to note that those things don’t work to end an argument.

On the contrary. These tactics will only make things worse, and cause more issues than you solve. That’s why you should always remain respectful and calm to prevent things from getting out of hand.

Final note

There are multiple ways to end an argument, which is what you should do when you can’t see the forest for the trees. There’s not one conclusive manner that’s always the best in every single situation to stop an ongoing discussion.

The most appropriate one depends on the circumstances, and the type of person you’re arguing with. Nevertheless, speaking softly, but carrying a big stick is a good mentality to possess in life.

Are emotions high or low? Is the person I’m interacting with mature, or childish? Are they prone to taking things to heart or not? And perhaps more importantly, are they simply looking to win the argument, or to make you understand something?

All the above are examples of viable and essential questions to ask yourself before deciding which way you’re going to attempt to stop the disagreement.

Make sure to remain respectful, and don’t resort to becoming emotional, overtalking, or speaking overly loud. These things will not end the controversy, and will only serve to make them more agitated which means the discussion keeps going on for longer, and more intensely.