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  • Writer's pictureLinda Milun

Let’s have a fight…

…or maybe not? Everyone experiences conflicts. Be it with the significant other, siblings, parents, maybe even co-workers or the boss. Interestingly, many people actually have some knowledge or understanding how to not fight dirty, but they still do. Why is that? It is because most of the time we are full of pride and we don’t like to loose. In short: We love our ego more than the relationship. Therefore, the first thing to understand is, that we need to make a choice: Do we actually want to learn how to put relationships first instead of our ego? If you can’t answer this question positively then this article is not for you (yet) and you need to work first on that particular matter. If you actually want to let go of your ego than let’s get started!

1. It is ok to fight.

It is a provocative thought, I understand that. However, this is the truth. Couples who have now and then a disagreement or fight (whatever you want to call it) actually clear up their relationship. Most of the time couples who don’t fight either gave up on growing into a deeper and more stable relationship. Truth is, what we don’t let close to our inner being can’t hurt us. And vice versa: What gets closer and closer to you can hurt you the most. No surprise that fights between spouses can be the most hurtful conflicts. Therefore, it is so important to learn how to fight right. People who are close to us trigger the most what throws us off. They tap sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly into our sensitive spots and here we go – a fight. And that is natural. We grow the most in close relationships, because we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. You can’t avoid conflicts if you are truly close to someone. But you can avoid escalation or "cover-up" fights.

2. Avoid “cover-up” fights.

"Cover-up" fights are ususally about nothing in particular. They are a ventil or channel to cover up the bigger issue. It can be about the toilet paper or the garbage or whatever triggers you when you are anyhow in a bad mood. Such fights are not very helpful because instead of sorting out the actual issue behind it, you just vent about ridicioulus things. So, focus on the real issue and not the "cover-up" issue.

3. First think.

When we are thrown off or heated up, we tend to speak fast and think less. Anything that comes to our mind will be thrown at the other person. The aim behind that is pure survival instinct: I want to win! It is easier said than done to think first. There are a few things that can help you, but these are also a matter of practice.

a. The moment you feel like speaking or defending yourself: pause! Just pause! Breath.

b. Make a choice, do I want to bring healing into the relationship or do I just want to vent my anger.

c. Look at the thoughts that flush into your head. Ask yourself: “Which of these thoughts are right now helping to solve the issue and which are to deliberately hurt the other person?

4. Avoid passive aggressive behaviour.

Yes, there are those who speak to fast and explode quickly, but there are also those who use a slow and quiet way to take revenge and attack – we call it passive aggressive. Ignoring the pain of the other person. Not doing tasks for the other person to punish him/her. Responding with sarcasm. Avoiding the other person. Just to name a few passive aggressive methods. Any action or reaction that is a form of revenge, ‘power display’ or attack no matter if openly shown anger or aggression or passively done are damaging for any relationship. Mistakenly, often the person who appears calmer or quieter is considered the more mature or responsible one. Reality shows, that this is not the case. Neither is more mature. The person who pursues to solve the conflict without using open or hidden attacks is the mature one.

5. Phrase your sentences carefully.

A very powerful way of dealing with disagreements and conflicts is how we phrase our opinions and feelings. Instead of saying “You are disrespectful towards me, because you said that in front of everyone. You have to stop speaking like this to me.”, you could say “I felt disrespected, when you said that in front of everyone. I wish that in future you would tell me in private.”

6. Don’t use threats.

“If you do that one more time, I will leave.” Do not say that! If you really want solve the issue, then avoid any form of threat. Yes, if a certain harmful behaviour will be continued, you can point out consequences. However, consequences should be communicated as such and not as threats. “This behaviour causes me to loose the trust I have so far in you.”

7. Don’t lecture.

How often do you end up telling someone how to do things? How often do you give commands, orders, instructions and explanations on how and what should be done? Be honest while you answer these questions for yourself! If you really want to avoid unnecessary conflicts than don’t give unsolicited advice or lectures. You can offer it, but you should not force it on the other person. “May I tell you what I think?”, “Is it ok, if I make a suggestion on how we can improve this?” Let’s look at an example to really make it clear: You are at work. You have asked your colleague to help you with a task. An hour later you go to that colleague and you want pick up the done work from him/her. You see that it was done sloppy and unprofessional. Usually you would be saying: “This is wrong. You should do it like this and this and this and this…”. However, this time you decide to say something like: “Thank you so much for helping me out. May I make a request? Could this and this be adjusted, so that this and this would work better together? It would be extremely helpful, if that could be changed.”

8. Don’t insult, put-down or joke around.

I don’t think that I have to explain much about insulting or how to put people down or how it looks like when we start making jokes in tense situations. I know that everyone has done it before or experienced it themselves. Let’s not pretend otherwise. In short: Don’t tell someone “You are stupid!”. If you feel the other person is behaving stupid there is still no reason of calling the person stupid, Because behaving stupid and being stupid are two completely different things. If you don’t want to be disrespected, insulted or put down, then don’t do it to others. Always confront the situation and the circumstances but not the person. That means, don't attack the person. You can speak about the behaviour and such but you shouldn't put the person done.

9. Non-verbal communication & tone of voice.

Do you role your eyes while in a conflict? The way you look or don’t look at people, your facial expression, your movements, the way you use your voice, that all matters. There is no arguing about it. It makes a difference if you say “No, thank you” with a smile or with an annoyed face. It is relevant if you look at someone when they talk to you or if you look at your phone, TV or even just the empty wall. In a conflict or tense situation, it is important to consciously choose your body language and tone of voice.

10. Never "in passing".

Always make sure that you have enough time to sort out disagreements and conflicts. 99% of the time to try to clear out issues in passing will fail or make it even worse. When there is a troublesome situation choose together a wise timing to sit and sort it out. In case the other person is not aware of a potential disagreement or that he/she has done something hurtful, because only you are bothered about something, than control your anger and wait for an appropriate time to bring the issue up.

11. Private & Neutral Environment.

Sort out conflicts and disagreement in a neutral and private environment. Don’t bring up conflicts in front of people, who are not involved (or invited by both parties) into the situation.

12. Listen well.

Try to really understand the other person. Be assured, that understanding one another does not mean agreement. To really understand where the othere person is coming from and what is in his/her eyes the issue will be essential to solve the disagreement. Make sure he/she sees that you really understood their point of view. Then only start communicating how you see the situation.

13. Time-out.

Even when you took time to discuss and the intention was to stay calm, it can happen that emotions heat up again. When one of you feels that the situation gets too intense than take a time-out. Communicate that you need a time out and allow to really leave the situation for the time being. Set a time limit: for example, say that after three hours you get back together to clear out what is still disturbing the peace.

14. No resolution?

Some very deep routed issues and stubbornness can cause, that you can't find a resolution together at that point. Take some more days to reflect individually. Agree to pause the conversation and to take your time. Get back together after e.g. three days and discuss again. It has to be clear, that this does not mean, that it can be ignored and forgotten. Set a fixed date and time in your calanders to get back together.

15. Compromise.

Some things are not black or white. They are colorful or grey. That means neither of you is right or wrong. You are simply different. And that is alright. In good relationships of any kind there will be times to compromise. In these moments you all need to meet half way and shake hands.

(For deep conflicts conflict management with a facilitator or mediator or coach or even counsellor can be neccessary.)

Now after reading all these tipps read them again. Make sure you really understood what they mean. Implement them slowly into your way of dealing with disagreements and conflicts. Take time to learn them and invite those close to you to make them part of their conflict management too.

Remember fighting itself is not neccessarly bad, as long as it is a good way. Good way of fighting means: Sorting out disagreements, hurt and challenges in a respectful manner, that is focused on solving the actual issues instead of being petty.

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