Fighting is part of every interpersonal human relationship. From sibling rivalry to teenage rebellion, even intra-marital disagreements, we are passionate creatures who often engage in battles of wills, beliefs and plans of action. Furthermore, fighting can actually serve to bring us closer together with our loved ones. Martha Beck, for Oprah.com, tells us, “Conflict is the mechanism by which we set boundaries around these differences, so that each party feels safe with the other. Whether the fight is an all-out brawl (someone jumps you in an alley and you struggle physically against that person) or the mildest tiff (“Watch the sexist language.” “Sorry. Won’t happen again”), conflict is the way we say, “You may go this far with me, and no further.” Until we know we can make and hold such boundaries, we never become comfortable enough to relax, be our true selves, and open our hearts.”
Knowing that not all fighting is bad fighting and that some conflict in your relationships might actually be a good thing, we ask, how do you fight right? Here are some ways to resolve those pesky personal conflicts without losing your cool, or your relationship, forever.
Listen More Than You Speak
When we argue, we often feel as though we’re being attacked. Instead of jumping to the defense, take a moment to hear what your sparring partner is actually fighting for. You’ll probably hear that he or she isn’t actually upset with you personally but more angry about a situation or circumstance… or maybe you just made a really bad choice and will have the opportunity to hear a different perspective and say you’re sorry. Whatever the case, listening more than you’re actually speaking will give you a chance to really understand the other person’s perspective in order to solve whatever problem you’re having with one another.
Read Related: Raging Bull: 12 Signs You Might Need Anger Management
Identify the Problem Together… Then Solve It
So, after you’ve done all that listening, then what? The real work can begin once both you and the person you’re fighting with understanding what the problem between the two of you really is (or are, in some case). Once the two of you agree on the problem, you can put your heads together to brainstorm solutions that work for you both.
Take Some Space
In the process of uncovering and solving your problem(s), things may get heated. Don’t be afraid to ask for some space and some time to cool off and collect your thoughts. Also, recognize that your partner may need the same courtesy to avoid saying something he or she will regret later.
Walk it Out While You Talk it Out
Walking, biking or even driving side-by-side is a much less threatening and often more productive setting for an argument or discussion that may escalate. Physically, you’ll feel like equals headed in the same direction and that’s an incredible metaphor for the predicament you’re working to solve together, right?
Say You’re Sorry
If you mean it, say it. If you don’t, find something to be genuinely sorry for (even if it’s something as simple as bringing up the topic at a bad time) and say it. Letting your guard down and admitting some form of culpability will adjust your fighting partner’s perspective and start you both down a path to a solution.
Get Some Help
If you’re finding yourself stuck in an argument that’s happening over and over again, leaving both you and your loved one unhappy and on edge, it might be time for some professional help. A counselor or therapist can provide support for you to communicate in a healthy way while helping you together and individually to understand the root of your issues and resolve them.