10 Tips for Fair Fighting

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10 easy tips for fair fighting will simplify and calm the way you respond to conflict.  Having a few ready-made tools can improve your success in navigating those dreaded heated moments with your partner.  Being mindful, factual, and empathic are just a few of the basic skills that deescalate potentially problematic interactions. It’s never too late to change bad habits – as long as you’re willing to try a new approach.  Conflict in relationships is a fact of life.  It doesn’t have to be deal breaker.  –Intro by Gary Krane, PhD and Heather Edwards, LMHC

-Originally written and posted by Heather Edwards, LMHC in NewYorkPsychotherapyandLifeCoaching.com

In my Coaching and Psychotherapy work with individuals, couples, families, and business partners I’ve found a few simple & effective tools for de-escalating arguments and resolving conflict as tensions rise. People often seek coaching or therapy once they’ve found themselves in repeated unhealthy or unproductive patterns. This can be a frustrating and seemingly hopeless situation without the intervention of a helper or the resources needed to get out of the mire. We can all attest to the fact that feeling stuck stinks, so try these simple tips to enlighten the way you debate.

1. Use “I” messages instead of “You” messages.
Recognize how conflict affects you. Give your feelings words. Unless your partner is clairvoyant, there is no way for him/her to truly know your experience. Brush up on your feelings-words vocabulary. Be specific about your experience. Notice where you feel your feelings. Physical symptoms are cues to recognizing your emotional responses, such as anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, or joy. Don’t be afraid to make yourself vulnerable by sharing your feelings. It can open the conversation to a genuine course of understanding and problem solving.

2. Own your feelings, actions, and wishes. State them clearly.
Use concrete, behavioral terms to describe what you want to say. Keep it short and sweet. Take responsibility for what you see, what you want, and how things need to change. Avoid accusations and blame.

3. Eliminate the words “always” and “never” from your vocabulary.
Very few things occur 100% of the time. Instead, think in terms of percentages on a scale of 1-100. Ask yourself, “What percentage of the time does this problem occur?”. Chances are it is not nearly as often as it seems. This can help gain a more accurate and realistic view of the problem which will help you address it more effectively.

4. Stick to the facts.
Resist making generalizations, interpretations or blaming statements. These will only put the other person on the defensive and derail the purpose of the argument. Stating facts rather than personal attacks keeps the conversation moving forward in a proactive way.

5. Stay focused on the goal of resolution, rather than “winning” the argument.
Once you get caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong the original problem becomes moot. When voices are raised and tempers are heated, the anger is what’s heard instead of the message. The conflict is now a power struggle that nobody really wins.

6. Avoid name calling, and physical violence.
This sabotages problem solving, mutual understanding, and conflict resolution. It damages the foundation of your relationship, threatens safety, and is more difficult to heal than the original dispute. Keep your anger and triggers in check. Be assertive, not aggressive.

7. Leave past issues in the past.
Focus on resolving the disagreement that exists in the here and now. When ancient history is exhumed, the current problem gets lost, becomes ambiguous, and takes a whole new shape. If there are unresolved issues from the past, come back to them in a dedicated discussion at another time when both parties are cool.

8. Be an active listener.
Hear what the other has to say. It’s only fair to offer the kind of listening you want and deserve in return! Repeat out loud what you heard the speaker say and check it out with him/her to be sure you got it right. Give him/her an opportunity to clarify, tweak, or restate his/her message.

9. Practice empathy.
Consider the other’s feelings and perspective of the problem with an open mind. Ask for their ideas. Don’t assume you already know them. We are all individuals with our own history, experience, and frame of reference that shade the way we think, perceive, and interact with others. Honor each other’s unique self.

10. Keep calm.
Take deep breaths or a five-minute-time-out to stay cool. Recognize when your barometer is rising. Once anger wins, the argument is lost. As stated by Thomas Paine, “The greatest remedy for anger is delay.”.

Transition to the Five-to-One Ratio

The following is from the book “Fire Up Your Communication Skills” (ISBN 09657620-6- 8) by Fire “Captain Bob” Smith. He is a recognized expert and speaker/author on stress, communication and relationship skills. He is a humorist, coach, entrepreneur and frequent talk show guest. He also produces customized presentations for career and personal growth.

To book him as a speaker, ask him any questions, or get a copy of his book and tapes call (888) 238-3959. e-mail: captbob@verio.com. WebPage: http://www.eatstress.com.

Transition to the Five-to-One Ratio

There is exciting relationship research coming from the Family Formation Project at the University of Washington in Seattle. John Gottman, Ph.D., an award winning psychologist and author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, has conducted a twenty-six-year study on what makes love last. Dr. Gottman claims that there is no evidence that the theory of conventional counseling works. With up to 67% of marriages failing, and 50% of those couples who enter counseling still ending in divorce, one would expect the odds to be better if today’s conventional counseling really was effective.

Read more of this post

The Marriage Plot

By Sharon Jackson

“When Elizabeth Weil and Dan Duane married  in July 2000, they made a straightforward pact; no cheating, no dying. Other less dramatic problems might lie on the horizon, like money (both are writers) and religion (she’s Jewish, he’s not).  Over time, neither of these issues created difficulties, but nine years and two daughters later Weil came up with the idea of improving their good marriage by undertaking a year of marital-skills improvement- a project she wrote about for The New York Times Magazine. Reluctantly, her husband agreed to the plan, even though both were aware of an old saying, “If you’re going to poke around the bushes, you’d better be prepared to scare out some snakes.” Click here, to continue reading, “The Marriage Plot; No Cheating, No Dying.

Licensed Psychotherapist, Linda Garcia-Rose has this to say to about whether it’s helpful or can make things worse to try to fix something that ain’t broke: “Some might call it, “….scrupulous, self-imposed scrutiny,” others might call it a journey of self-actualization.  Many people come to therapy only when they are in crisis.  Quite often, when their relationship is past the point-of-no-return.  Therefore, I find the reasoning that Weil and Duane go in search of improving their, “good marriage” to be exciting.  Just like a professional musician or athlete, training to perform even better.

“The issue I have from a therapeutic perspective is that they do not seem to persevere in any one treatment. I encourage clients to shop for a therapist and/or method which works for them.  However, therapy is a process not a quick fix or flavor of the day.  Frequently, issues and emotions may be energized and exacerbated as part of this process.  Meaning it often gets worse before it gets better!”

Like Elizabeth Weil, I believe anything can be better, and for some relationships it may be a good idea to get down and dirty and dig up all those issues that are getting in the way of having a healthy or healthier connection with your mate, by seeing a therapist.  Who wouldn’t want a more loving, supportive, and closer relationship with their partner?