Communicating Effectively

Fair Fighting

Fighting occurs when we feel threatened, challenged or attacked by another.Unless we had excellent role modeling as children, we can find ourselves unequipped for working through conflict in a healthy, respectful and fair way. Learning to communicate well takes practice. In order to stay cool during heated arguments, we need rules for fair fighting. This approach works best when both people agree to follow the rules and are ready for a positive change in their relationship.

Here are some helpful strategies to turn unconstructive battles into productive exchanges:

  1. Don't let anger build to the point of exploding. Work on being aware of your level of anger and make a plan to discuss issues before you are boiling over.
  2. Think about the best possible time to address your issue/conflict. Make sure there aren't distractions and ask the other person if they are available to have the discussion.
  3. Begin by talking about how you feel about the situation. Be careful not to blame and use I statements such as, When you __________, I feel ___________. Do not name call, curse, make assumptions or threaten.
  4. Give the other person a chance to respond and share. Don't judge their feelings.
  5. Take turns talking and repeat back what you are hearing to make sure you are understanding their point of view.
  6. Stay on topic. Don't bring up other issues. Your best chance of resolving a conflict is to take one at a time.
  7. If either person begins to escalate and take an unproductive approach, use a brief (10 min.) time out to cool off.
  8. Don't try to win, try to communicate.

You might want to print out this page and refer to it to remind you both whenever a disagreement arises.


10 Rules for Having a Healthy Disagreement

Differences of opinion are normal and healthy in adult relationships and learning to compromise is a skill required in many areas of life.

  1. Stick to the issue in hand - don't bring up previous misdemeanors or other things you've been meaning to say.
  2. Don't argue over trivia - for example, arguing whether it was Monday or Tuesday that you forgot the milk. The issue is you forgot, not which day it was.
  3. Start sentences with "I" - for example, "I felt annoyed when you..." rather than, "You annoyed me when..." And, "I would like to go out more often," not, "We should go out more often."
  4. Don't use absolutes - never say "never", "always", "should" or "shouldn't." They're irritating and often inaccurate. For example, "You never wash up" will almost certainly get a response of "What about when...?"
  5. Let your opinions stand on their own merits - don't bring in other people's opinions.
  6. Try to stay sitting down, relax your muscles and don't forget to breathe - it's much easier to stay calm if you're not pacing around the room.
  7. Don't start throwing abuse around - calling your partner lazy, fat or paranoid isn't going to convince them to see your point of view.
  8. Be aware of your feelings and tell your partner these as well - saying "I'm scared you don't love me anymore" is likely to get a better response than "You don't act like you love me."
  9. Try not to block the conversation - don't interrupt, launch into a monologue or expect your partner to be a mind-reader.
  10. Agree to a code word for time out - if one or both of you feels you're getting overheated it's best to take some time away from each other to calm down before going back to the disagreement. Remember, who wins the argument is irrelevant if your relationship loses something.

Always try to confront the issue - not each other.

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