Guidelines for Fair Fighting
Try this exercise: Review these guidelines with your partner (in a calm moment) and identify each person’s greatest strengths and weaknesses in the realm of managing conflict...
- Timing matters: seek your partner’s buy-in to agree on when a tense discussion will happen
- Explicitly agree on what problem is being discussed (you can write it down)
- Deal with a current problem; don’t dredge up the past
- Stay focused on that one issue and avoid adding on others
- Don’t debate about insignificant details
- Resist responding defensively
- Take responsibility by using “I” statements (a downloadable template is available here)
- Be gentle and direct, and resist sarcasm
- Don’t read your partner’s mind or expect your partner to read yours
- Take turns Listening-Reflecting-Clarifying (see this blog post for more information)
- Give each person equal time - avoid monopolizing or “lecturing”
- Participate: avoid “stonewalling” (going silent)
- Avoid rolling eyes, angry sighs, smirking, yawning, finger pointing etc.
- Speak softly. Honor your partner’s request for lowering your voice
- Do not interrupt. If it seems important to do so, ask permission to interrupt.
- Avoid “You always…” & “You never…” – these invite defensiveness
- Do not argue when intoxicated
- Do not argue when tired, hungry, etc.
- Attack the issue, not the person: No name-calling/ shaming/ global criticisms/ character assassinations
- No violence (slapping, punching, pushing, grabbing, hitting, restraining, blocking)
- No escalating words/ behaviors (yelling, obscenities, taunting, belittling)
- Don’t save up feelings and dump them all at once; try to air feelings often
- Ask for a break or a slower pace when you need time to calm down or think
- If you need to walk away or leave, reassure your partner, “I need a break, I’ll be back”.
- Discuss more challenging arguments in relatively short segments. Agree when you will
come back together to continue the discussion
- Give each other the ability to withdraw or change your mind.
- Sitting or lying close, or holding hands while discussing the issue can be mutually soothing
- Sitting or walking side-by-side while talking can decrease stress/ overwhelm
- Ask questions that will clarify, not judge or criticize
- Don’t involve other people or their opinions of the situation
- Don’t make threats or bring up divorce in the heat of an argument; calmly state your needs
- Be willing to apologize and take responsibility for your mistakes
- Brainstorm possible solutions together and be willing to compromise
- Look for opportunities to praise your partner/ acknowledge positives about the situation
* Building connection & understanding (not polarization) *
* Achieving mutually satisfying resolution (not “winning”) *