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Fighting fair

You and your spouse can’t seem to agree on anything. Or perhaps you find yourself always at odds with co-workers or friends. Are you just flying off the handle lately with no visible results for your efforts?

Fighting is a natural part of the human dialogue—and it can be a healthy one. In fact, experts suggest you learn how to fight well! Here are some constructive tips:

  • Have a conversation with yourself. What do you need, and how are you feeling? Let’s say, for example, that it ticks you off every time your husband turns on the TV. After some reflection, you may realize you’re hurt when he seems too distracted to talk to you. In exploring these feelings, you may come to the conclusion that you need to have your spouse listen more genuinely to your thoughts and concerns. If this kind of inner exploration feels awkward, try keeping a regular journal, which can help you more easily get in touch with your own feelings.
  • State your request and express your feelings to others. Once you’ve figured out what really is bugging you, this is your most important step. Identify to your sparring partner what it is that you want or don’t want. Be direct and clearly state your needs.
  • Pay attention to your body language. Look directly at the person you are addressing, stand up straight and speak clearly and firmly.
  • Be respectful. Don’t belittle or be cruel. Name-calling, curses and snide sarcasm only make people shut down their minds to the legitimate points you want to make.
  • Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. When you use “I” statements, the person you’re talking to doesn’t feel “attacked” and can more readily respond to your feelings. For example, instead of saying, “You hurt my feelings and you never listen to me,” try, “I am feeling hurt and I need you to listen to me.”
  • You need to listen, too. Your partner may have good points to make. To avoid misunderstanding, restate what you believe you’ve heard. For instance, you may say, “So let me be clear. You feel that watching TV is a good way for you to unwind.”
  • Invite the person to brainstorm solutions. Once you’ve identified how you both feel about the problem, seek compromises and/or resolutions. Perhaps your husband can watch an hour of TV and then turn it off for some “talk time.”
  • Defuse your anger. Many people find that if they let things stew, it makes it more difficult to effectively deal with a problem. Exercise, too, can reduce anger and stress. Workouts also give you time to think about a brewing situation and determine an appropriate course of action.
  • Don’t shout, throw things or act out your temper in a violent way. Such actions only cause further harm. If you are prone to such physical outbursts, you may want to consider seeking professional counseling to further explore the source of your anger and improve upon your conflict resolution skills.