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  • Sarah Dobey, LPC, MAC

Relationships are not always a walk in the park. Often they require some energy and consideration. These fair fighting tips, adapted from the current research, can help keep you on track:

Before you speak, ask yourself why you are upset

Sometimes we can act impulsively, saying or doing things we might later regret. Breathe and ask yourself, “why am I upset? What is this about?”

No degrading language

Talk about the issue at hand, not the person. Avoid name calling, labels (for example: “you are lazy.”) and swearing.

No stonewalling (refusing to speak)

If you don’t communicate then the conversation will not be particularly helpful. We might stonewall intentionally or unintentionally. Regardless, do your best to express how you are feeling and what you need/want. If you feel like you are too emotional to communicate then set a time to come back to the conversation.

Own up and don’t blame

Blame is not helpful in conversations; It just distracts us, escalates the argument, and avoids the issue. Taking responsibility for our actions helps the other person feel heard and allows us to focus on what we have control over.

Use “I statements”

Express what you’re feeling. For example, “I feel hurt and alone when you ignore my phone calls” or “I feel overwhelmed when I don’t get time to myself.” Focus on your emotions andyour behaviors. You have a better chance of the other person actually hearing you out when express what you feel, especially because, if they care about you, they will want to know how their actions may impact you. Plus no one wants or needs to be told how they feel, think, and behave.

No talk of divorce or breaking up

Often people will throw out the threat of leaving. Threatening to leave is hurtful and manipulative. If you are constantly threatening to leave, your significant other will not be able to take your comments seriously, knowing that your words are just talk rather than action.

No scorekeeping / Stay in the present

Avoid dragging the past into the argument. Keep the focus on the matter at hand and what can be done to resolve the issue. Scorekeeping can result in feeling at odds against each other. Remember, you are a team and it’s easier to work as a team.

Take turns speaking

Talking over one another is not helpful. It is an indicator that you are not listening to one another. Remember, we all want to be heard. When one person speaks the other should be doing their best to truly hear out the other person.

Take a time out

Sometimes arguments get out of hand, therefore it is important to know when to walk away. If you are feeling overwhelmed or if these fair fighting suggestions go out the window, take a break rather than causing more damage. Remember to set a time and a place to come back to the issue and give yourself at least twenty minutes. During those twenty minutes do not rehearse in your head; instead talk a walk or do some deep breathing, distract yourself so you can come back to the conversation with a fresh mind.

No yelling and/or use of force

There is research to support how important your tone of voice is. If you cannot remain calm, then take a break. Feeling safe in a conversation is important.

Attempt to come to a compromise

Relationships (of any kind) are all about compromise. Do your best to express yourneeds/wants and to think about where the other person is coming from. Life isn’t about gettingeverything we want.

Any thoughts on this blog? Please feel free to comment below.