Fighting Fair

Posted by wendy on May 25, 2010 under Uncategorized | Comments are off for this article

Before You Start…

1. Be clear about the exact issue you wish to talk about or are angry about. Stick to only this issue in the course of your discussion. If there are several issues to be resolved, it might be best to arrange separate times to deal with each. If you bring in too many issues, you will be unlikely to resolve any of them.

2. Choose a time, which suits both of you. Agree about how long you will go on for and stick to the deadline. Do not start a discussion when one of you has something important to do; for example putting children to bed, or when one of you has just returned home from work.

3. If possible, choose a suitable place where you can be private and undisturbed. You may wish to unplug the phone or switch on the answer phone.

Fighting fairly to be effective…

4. Take it turns to talk and really listen to each other, and give each other an equal amount of time. Shouting across each other may be satisfying in the short term, however it will not lead to a successful resolution of the issues.

5. Make statements rather than ask questions. Speak without accusations or judgements. Ask permission before you make an emotionally loaded statement. Avoid generalisations for example “you always” or “you never” etc. When the other person has finished speaking, try to accept their statements without becoming defensive. Before you express your own viewpoint, repeat their thoughts and feelings back to them so that you are both clear that you have understood.

6. DO NOT DRAG UP THE PAST. Stick to the particular issue, which is the subject of the fight. Although very tempting, if you bring up a catalogue of past “sins” or misdemeanours it will only cloud the issue.

7. Express any anger you may feel, but DO NOT resort to abuse such as name calling, Shouting, blaming or worst of all violence. These tactics are not only dismissive and disrespectful, in the worst case are likely to lead to the courts or worse. An agreement not to harm the other person, you or the environment is a good starting point.

When and how to stop…

8. Stop if you can’t keep the communication straight; stop if you feel that the fight is no longer related to the specific issue; stop if either of you become abusive.

9. Take your share of responsibility for what has happened. Be prepared to apologize for any error, which is identified on your part, and be prepared to hear and accept an apology from the other person. Both can be very difficult.

10. You may not be able to reach an agreement. It is ok to agree to differ and work out a compromise together.

11. Agree to discuss a compromise; often what is required is a creative compromise. Remember the goal is not to have a “winner” and “loser”; healthy relationships are “win-win”.

Fair Fighting: Ground rules

Remain calm. Try not to overreact to difficult situations. By remaining calm it will be more likely that others will consider your viewpoint.

Express feelings in words, not actions. Telling someone directly and honestly how you feel can be a very powerful form of communication. If you start to feel so angry or upset that you feel you may lose control, take a “time out” and do something to help yourself feel steadier – take a walk, do some deep breathing, pet the cat, play with the dog, do the dishes – whatever works for you.

Be specific about what is bothering you. Vague complaints are hard to work on.

Deal with only one issue at a time. Don’t introduce other topics until each is fully discussed. This avoids the “kitchen sink” effect where people throw in all their complaints while not allowing anything to be resolved.

No “hitting below the belt.” Attacking areas of personal sensitivity creates an atmosphere of distrust, anger, and vulnerability.

Avoid accusations. Accusations will cause others to defend themselves. Instead, talk about how someone’s actions made you feel.

Don’t generalize. Avoid words like “never” or “always.” Such generalizations are usually inaccurate and will heighten tensions.

Avoid “make believe.” Exaggerating or inventing a complaint – or your feelings about it – will prevent the real issues from surfacing. Stick with the facts and your honest feelings.

Don’t stockpile. Storing up lots of grievances and hurt feelings over time is counterproductive. It’s almost impossible to deal with numerous old problems for which interpretations may differ. Try to deal with problems as they arise.

Avoid clamming up. When one person becomes silent and stops responding to the other, frustration and anger can result. Positive results can only be attained with two-way communication.

Establish common ground rules. You may even want to ask your partner-in-conflict to read and discuss this brochure with you. When parties accept positive common ground rules for managing a conflict, resolution becomes much more likely.

Fair Fighting: Step by Step…

To make the Fair Fighting ground rules effective in resolving a specific conflict, use the following steps:

Step One: Before you begin, ask yourself, “What exactly is bothering me? What do I want the other person to do or not do? Are my feelings in proportion to the issue?”

Step two: Know what your goals are before you begin. What are the possible outcomes that could be acceptable to you?

Step three: Remember that the idea is not to “win” but to come to a mutually satisfying and peaceful solution to the problem.

Step four: Set a time for a discussion with your partner-in-conflict. It should be as soon as possible but agreeable to both persons. Springing something when another is unprepared may leave the other person feeling that he or she has to fend off an attack. If you encounter resistance to setting a time, try to help the other person see that the problem is important to you.

Step five: State the problem clearly. At first, try to stick to the facts; then, once you’ve stated the facts, state your feelings. Use “I” messages to describe feelings of anger, hurt, or disappointment. Avoid “you” messages such as “you make me angry….”

Step six: Invite your partner-in-conflict to share his or her point of view, and use active listening skills. Be careful not to interrupt, and genuinely try to hear his or her concerns and feelings. If it seems helpful, try to restate what you have heard in a way that lets your partner know you have fully understood, and ask your partner to do the same for you.

Step seven: Try to take the other’s perspective – that is, try to see the problem through his or her eyes. The “opposing” viewpoint can make sense even if you don’t agree.

Step eight: Propose specific solutions, and invite the other person to propose solutions, too.

Step nine: Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each proposal.

Step ten: Be ready for some compromise. Allowing the other person only one course of action will likely hinder resolution. When there is agreement on a proposal for change, celebrate! Set a trial period for the new behavior. At the end of the trial period, you can discuss the possibility of modifying or continuing the change. If no solution has been reached regarding the original problem, schedule a time to begin the discussion again.

For Further Reading

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William Ury & Bruce Patton (ed.). Penguin, 1991.

The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Goldhor Lerner. HarperCollins, 1997.

Anger, the Misunderstood Emotion by Carol Tavris. Touchstone, 1989.

Messages: The Communication Book by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 1995.

book Talk to Me: How to Create Positive, Loving Communication by Steven & Catherine Martin

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