One theme that is current in many couples sessions and family sessions is conflict. As a therapist, I have come to understand conflict and fighting as two different animals.
Fighting produces no resolution, opens new and old wounds and aims to inflict hurt.
Conflict is the opportunity for growth. A relationship with no conflict experiences little growth. In conflict, a level of respect is maintained between parties and a willingness to find a solution over power. Below are some helpful rules to fair fighting that produce healthy conflict.
1. Identify the source of upset feelings.
Many superficial arguments happen due to deeper lying issues. Examine the real issues, when ignored resentment continues to grow.
2. Stay on topic.
Resolution results from a targeted conversation. Avoid temptation to pile on other frustrations, it only fuels the fire.
3. Keep it clean.
Avoid name calling and harsh language. Aggressive and hostile language creates defensive behavior and shuts down the willingness for understanding.
4. “I” Statements.
Avoid “you” statements that serve as a vehicle for character attacks. Instead use “I feel upset when….., I feel hurt when….”
5. Take turns.
Put the score card down, allow one another to share their thoughts and feelings equally without interruption.
6. No freezing out.
Refusal to participate in communication is game playing, not productive and ultimately exhausting.
7. Check the volume
Keep voices calm and respectable.
8. Take breaks
If you find yourself in a state of mind that does not allow you to adhere to the above rules, state that you need a break to cool down followed by when you will be ready to return to the discussion.
9. Compromise and Understand
In many cases no one right answer exists, work as if you both are on the same team. Allow yourself to approach the situation from the otherʼs view point.