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Fighting Fair: Do's and Don'ts for Conflict Resolution

Posted Oct 30 2008 11:55am

Destructive Fighting Techniques

  1. Apologizing prematurely or saying, "It's okay" when your feelings haven't fully been resolved or addressed.
  2. Refusing to take the fight seriously when the other person is clearly upset.
  3. Withdrawing (physically or emotionally). It's a way of saying "What you feel is not important to me."
  4. Throwing in the kitchen sink by bringing up every past hurt and transgression you can think of to prove the other person is still more wrong than you. If you have legitimate issues from the past that need to be resolved, by all means, bring them up, but do it at a time when you can discuss and resolve them, even if it means giving up that handy weapon.
  5. Attacking the person instead of the problem. If you want this relationship to last, you really should be on the same side trying to tackle and resolve the problem together. You can be on opposite sides of the issue, but on the same side when it comes to working on the relationship.
  6. Speaking for the other person. Maybe you really DON'T know what they are thinking.
  7. Withholding the positives until you get your way.

Constructive Fighting Techniques

  1. Set aside time for the conflict to be addressed. Yes, this means you may have to bring up a difficult issue when everyone is in a decent mood. You may ruin the good mood in the short term but the foundation you build by seeking resolution of the conflict is an investment in good times ahead. 
  2. Make sure you have enough time to talk when you bring up the issue to resolve. Avoid the "doorknob syndrome" (I have to leave right now because I'm running late but before I go, let me lob this bomb at you and tell you how ticked I am for you being such a jerk last night. Oops! Gotta go!)
  3. Tell each other what you appreciate about each other. Express the positives, validate the relationship.
  4. State the negatives without blaming. Be as neutral as you can and considerate of the fact that no one likes to be yelled at, accused, threatened or bullied. Do you want them to hear your point or your anger?
  5. Practice "active listening". Repeat back a summary or paraphrase of what you are hearing. This allows you to clarify the communication and avoid misunderstandings as well as allowing the other person to know that they are being heard. Be willing to have your perception challenged.
  6. If you really think you are understanding the person and they keep saying you aren't, request: "Say it a different way, I'm missing something." Sometimes we get in communication ruts and we think we are being more clear than we are. We get in listening ruts, too and sometimes we hear things that aren't being said, and don't hear things that are.  Rephrasing or giving examples can be very helpful. Be patient while the right words are searched for.
  7. Avoid knee jerk reactions to criticism. Give yourself time to mull over what is being said before your respond.
  8. Remember, "winning" (getting your way) may not be eve rything. Compromise when you have to but also be clear about what and why you are compromising. Make sure it is a compromise you can live with and not a chip you are going to cash in later when you want to get your way on something. Let this resolution be complete in itself, not something to draw upon for future examples of how much you have given or suffered for this relationship and how much you are now owed.
  9. Deal with the behavior, state your feelings, don't assault character. Take full responsibility for what you say. If your emotions are running away with your tongue, take responsibility for them and take a break until you can communicate your points effectively.  Allow yourself NO excuse to use qualifiers such as "Well, I was angry/tired/hadn't eaten...".  Even comments made under such situations carry a mighty weight and very often leave the person on the receiving end wondering, "Is that how they REALLY feel? Maybe they said it in anger, or at a low blood sugar point because they didn't have the strength to hide their true feelings. I mean, that comment came from somewhere, right?" 
  10. LISTEN with the goal of understanding, not with the goal of looking for your opportunity to make a point (or, worse, score a point.)
  11. Don't assume things are resolved simply because YOU feel better. Make sure you are both ready to end the discussion before you close it.
  12. Breathe. Recognize that you both may be wiped. Thank the other person for hanging in there until the discussion could be completed and then give yourself some space to come down from the experience.
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