Here are my Rules of Fair Fighting:
1. When involved in an argument, speak about yourself, your experience, your feelings. Use language such as, “I felt angry” or “I felt sad” or “That caused me pain.” Avoid: “You were an idiot” and “You made me mad!”
Only the behavior of the other person caused you to feel a feeling. But whatever you felt was unique to you; the other person probably felt another feeling. This in no way minimizes your emotion, however — it is yours to own.
2. Talk about what you want to see happen, from your perspective.
3. Stay away from absolute words like “always” and “never,” and keep to the specifics of the situation in the here and now.
Don’t throw in historical experiences such as, “I remember three years ago you did the same thing!” What matters is how you are experiencing the situation today — and that you are expressing yourself today.
4. Don’t label or shame the person with whom you are engaging. If you do, it’s shame on you! Only the weaker party resorts to shaming with expletives.
5. Take a “time out” if you don’t feel that you’re being heard — or if the dialogue between you and the other person is getting loud while tensions are escalating. Always seek a cooling off period if things threaten to become violent (verbally or physically). Also, go to a time out if you find yourself repeating the same things and getting nowhere.
6. Agree to return with the understanding that both positions are worthy of being listened to and considered.
At the end of the day, recognize that relationships are based on mutuality, negotiation and love. There must be give and take.
When either party gets stuck in the land of always and never, sparks will fly. Avoid those black-and-white statements.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of your spouse, partner, friend or child/teenager. Can you also see their point of view? You don’t need to agree with them … but do strive for a larger perspective. Maybe you can understand how they might feel. This should help with the long-term way you relate to them.
Often when we are hurt by the ones we love, they are not intentionally harming us. Sometimes they just miss the obvious, are being insensitive, or fail to see an alternative perspective.
On the other hand, if intent to harm is part of the behavior pattern then it’s time to explore why you’re in a relationship with someone who causes deliberate harm. Do you deserve such hurtful behavior? Hopefully the response you give yourself will be a “no.”
We all deserve to be treated with respect.