12 Tips to Fighting Fair with a Loved One

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By: Marcello Gonzales, LCP

Have you ever felt like you can never resolve conflict with your partner/family/friend/loved one?

It is often difficult to communicate when at odds or in disagreement with someone. It’s much easier to avoid the topic or agrees to disagree but the truth is agreeing to disagree doesn’t work in addressing any issues. Moreover, it avoids any movement towards processing an issue or creating a mutually agreed upon compromise that is often needed when conflict arises.

More: Fair fighting and time outs

When you’re upset or feel hurt it’s hard to follow rules, but so important to think of set boundaries when approaching a conflict. But when you and the person or persons involved have a clear set of boundaries it so much easier to let your guard down and engage in a fruitful conversation. Think of the following as guidelines to engagement.

One key component to effective conflict resolution is the tools you use to address the issues. The parameters that you use to guide you can create an environment for healthier communication.

Use the guidelines below as tools to help address conflict in a productive way.

1 Bring up an issue at the earliest possible moment, otherwise, your loved one may consider that you saved these issues to be used as weapons. Holding on to issues also creates more turmoil for you as you may be the only person thinking or ruminating over the issue. Save stress and time by addressing things as early as possible.

2 Be as specific as possible when you introduce an issue. Any general statements or vague descriptions will only create confusion and distract from what you want to convey.

3 Stick to one issue at a time. Don’t start a conversation with a list of concerns, the more topics you discuss the muddier the conversation can get and the less likely a solution can be found. When you address multiple issues, you may skip back and forth, and end up eluding the more difficult ones without professional guidance.

4 Don’t explain! Explaining can cause others to disengage and lead you to potentially not be able to listen to the other person. Instead, focus on bringing the other person into your world and sharing your lens and experience of the situation.

5 Do not simply complain, state your issue and also ask for a reasonable change that will alleviate a single issue at a time.

6 Do not bring in counter demands into the discussion until the original demand is clearly understood, and there has been a clearly defined response.

7 Always consider compromise. There are no totally objective realities! Every person’s lens is colored by their experiences. Never forget that your loved one’s view of reality is just as real as yours.The emotions they feel are real and experienced. You cannot control how another person experiences the world.

8 Never focus on being right or winning! When trying to resolve a contentious issue with a loved one it is best to focus on mutual understanding. If there are motivations about winning or being right, take a step back and reevaluate. There is no winning only compromise and understanding.

9 Never assume that you know what your loved one is thinking! Check into any assumptions in clear and simple language. Never assume or try to predict how your partner/loved one/family/friend will react, accept or reject. You never know what someone is thinking. Too often we think people will experience/react similarly to the way we may. Rather than assume, always ask!

10 Never put labels on your loved one. Do not make broad judgments about your loved one’s feelings, most importantly judgments about whether their feelings are real or not. You cannot dictate how someone else will feel.

11 Do not use Sarcasm! Sarcasm is inherently used to put someone down, hurt feelings, mock or convey contempt. Sarcasm comes from the Greek word sarkazein, that literally means “to tear flesh”. Sarcasm can be misinterpreted and is in many ways can be seen as disingenuous. Whether your sense of humor is based on irony or satire sarcasm can be seen as dirty fighting.

12 Forget about the past and stay in the present (what you are experiencing in the here and now). What either of you did last year, last month or last night is not as important as what you are doing and feeling right now! The changes you ask for can never be retroactive.

Overall, going into uncomfortable conversations can be tough. Remember to go in with the mindset of “how do I make sure we get the most out of this conversation?” “How do I make sure I’m clear about issues?” “How can I create an environment of vulnerability?” “Am I being authentic about what I’m experiencing?” “I/We can get through this!”

Overall, going into uncomfortable conversations can be tough. Remember to go in with the mindset of “how do I make sure we get the most out of this conversation?” “How do I make sure I’m clear about issues?” “How can I create an environment of vulnerability?” “Am I being authentic about what I’m experiencing?” “I/We can get through this!”