Fighting Fair

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A few days ago Lilian wrote about a common relationship myth; one that suggests that couples in a good relationship don’t fight. Perhaps the problem is with the word “fight.” How about we use disagree, argue, squabble, feud, bicker, battle, skirmish or just fight.

We all do it, no two people are going to get along 100% of the time, it simply doesn’t make sense to assume you will.

So, if we are going to fight, let’s do it fairly. Let’s understand that we aren’t throwing our relationship into the blender every time we disagree. Here are some thoughts on how to fight fair.

#1 Stick to the Issue. Don’t bring in other problems or previous disagreements. If you are arguing about the car, then talk about the car, not the babysitter or how he or she always gets his or her way. Most importantly stick to the issue at hand and do not under any circumstances go after your partner. Argue about IT, not about THEM.

#2 Watch Your Voice. Shouting or raising your voice, will get you heard less not more. I remember a good friend who used to say to her husband: “Saying the same thing louder and louder does not make you more right.” Keep your voice calm.

#3 Listen. We want to be heard, but fighting fairly means we also have to listen. Don’t interrupt, if you do, you are saying that what your partner is trying to express is not worth hearing. If you can’t repeat back to your partner what they said, you weren’t really listening.

#4 Be Curious. If you don’t understand their point, ask questions. Try to understand their point of view, even while you are disagreeing with them. You can’t defend your side if you don’t know what the other side is as well. A very powerful statement in a disagreement is one that asks for more. “Could you explain that more, please?”

#5 Don’t Be Afraid of the Argument. Understanding often comes out of the give and take of a fight. If you hear what is being said and you are assured you are being heard as well, conflict can lead to resolution, but both sides need to be open to change.

There are several ways to look for change within an argument. Such as:

#6 Identify Points of Agreement. When you both agree to or concede a point, make note of it. Closing the gap between you and your partner often happens in a series of small steps, don’t miss them. When you agree, point it out and don’t be afraid of keeping a list of each and every agreement.

#7 Seek Out Options. What if you’re both right? What if you’re both wrong? Look not only for the middle ground but for options neither of you have considered. Seldom do disagreements come with only an A or a B solution. The shades of difference are often also the variations of an agreement. Compromise in areas where neither of you has any investment. Find a third or a fourth way.

#8 Seek Clarity on Both Sides. You should not only ask for more specifics from your partner, but you should provide more on your point of view. Often disagreements that lead to a fight arise out of fuzzy or incomplete logic. Hone your points and ask for more detail from your partner.

#9 Concede When You are Wrong or when you recognize a better way. Give you something to get something or just give it up when your point no longer serves you. How often have you wearied of a fight and then discovered it is your position that no longer seems important. Recognize when the value of your point of view no longer holds enough energy to continue.

#10 Seek Peace. The end of any argument, fight or conflict should find peace restored. If that is the common goal of the relationship before the fight begins, it will be much easier to achieve peace when the fight is over.

One final comment, you have probably heard the phrase: “Never go to bed angry.” I’m not saying this is a good or bad way to deal with a relationship fight. I will say that I know it never worked for me and practically ruined the marriage of a close friend.

If you are going to have fair fight rules in your relationship, work them out between you when you’re not fighting. Then test them out to see if they work for you. Whatever and however you deal with conflict, do it fairly and always seek peace as your ultimate goal.


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