Being The Bigger Person In An Argument Isn't Always The Best Choice

"You should just let it go and be the bigger person" is a piece of advice that we've all heard a million times. And it makes sense — sometimes it's easiest to agree to disagree with someone or just accept what they're saying and move on. Even though we may have some resentment and bitter feelings in the moments immediately afterward, being the "bigger person" and ultimately walking away is often the healthiest option. When you dwell on an issue for too long, anger affects your body in negative ways — the emotion increases your blood pressure, heart rate, and stress level. It's best to avoid frequent anger because you want to keep the peace in your own mind and body as much as you can.

Like a lot of advice though, you can't apply this suggestion to every single situation. Sometimes, there's actually no benefit to being the bigger person, and that's okay. Here's how to tell when you should take on the role and when it's probably better not to. 

When you should try to be the bigger person

There are a few different ways to act like the bigger person. It might look like offering up an apology — telling the other person that they're right about something — or simply responding to them in a way that is both respectful and constructive. New York-based psychotherapist Rev. Sheri Heller explained to Psychology Today that being the bigger person is ultimately defined by a "willingness to find common ground and achieve resolution, even if each person's reality differs." So, when should you go this route? 

When you're stuck in an argument that's been going in circles and causing stress and frustration for everyone involved, being the bigger person is a smart initial approach if your goal is to calmly end the conflict. Take a breath and really try to understand the other person's point of view for a moment. Can you understand where they're coming from? Can you empathize with them and leave it be? Sometimes you can, and sometimes you can't. 

When you don't need to be

You might find yourself in a situation where you've tried being the bigger person repeatedly. You've spent hours graciously explaining your point of view, actively listening, and showing compassion ... but the other person would just rather hurt you and keep fighting than find a solution. In that case, it's totally fine if you don't respond like a saint. Nevertheless, there are certain things you should never say to a partner or friend, and your instinct will tell you when you're crossing the line. You can also just remove yourself from a situation without totally solving it. 

At the end of the day, it won't hurt to first try being the bigger person when a dispute is escalating. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. Whenever you feel yourself starting to get carried away in the heat of the moment, take a step back and reflect for a minute. What response will most benefit you right now? Sometimes it's taking the high road, and sometimes it's expressing your hurt and/or leaving.